Rabies haunts Bali again

Ni Komang Erviani

Bali Daily / Denpasar 

Despite its optimism to be rabies free by 2015, Bali has been challenged this week by another rabies case. 

On Tuesday, a rabid dog bit five people in Gianyar regency. The people who were bitten have received medical treatment and rabies vaccinations.

“The remains of the dog that bit five residents in Gianyar have been examined by the Denpasar Veterinary Board. They concluded that the dog was infected with rabies,” the provincial husbandry agency head, I Putu Sumantra, said on Wednesday.

The incident, which only took a couple of minutes, occurred in Kutuh Kelod hamlet, Petulu village, in Gianyar regency.

One of the victims, Ni Kadek Parwati, 46, was heading off to Ubud art market at 10 a.m., when the dog bit her on her right foot. 

After the attacks, the villagers caught and killed the dog. 

To prevent the victims themselves developing rabies, the five were vaccinated. “We hope the victims are free from rabies as they received the vaccination,” Sumantra said.

A mass vaccination was also carried out on all dogs in the hamlet and the surrounding area to prevent any further transmission of the virus. 

The reappearance of rabies serves as a new challenge for the island, which is targeting being free of rabies by 2015. 

In April this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) presented awards to Bali’s provincial administration for its successful efforts in preventing and mitigating rabies.

However, Sumantra denied that the new rabies case had ruined the 2015 target. “We should be grateful for this new case, so that we can work harder to overcome rabies,” he said.

Sumantra suspected that the dog had come from the forests in the mountains around Gianyar, where the vaccination had not yet reached. He said it was possible that there were more dogs living in the forests that were still unvaccinated. “It is our challenge now to vaccinate dogs living in the forests. There could be more dogs living out there,” he added.

Sumantra gave his assurance that all dogs belongs to island residents had been vaccinated in the mass vaccination program. “The problem now is the wild dogs living in the forest,” he said.

The first rabies outbreak in Bali occurred in 2008 in Ungasan village. Since then, Bali has gone through three stages of mass vaccinations for dogs, monkeys and cats, all of which are believed to be rabies carriers. This year, from April to July, the fourth stage of the mass vaccination is taking place, targeting inoculating 250,000 of the 350,000 dog population.

Rabies cases in humans in Bali have been decreasing in recent years, thanks to the mass animal vaccination initiative. In 2008, four cases were recorded, while 2009 saw 48 cases. The largest number — 82 cases, was recorded in 2010. After the mass animal vaccination program was launched in Bali, rabies cases in humans started to decrease. In 2011, 24 cases were recorded, and by 2012 only 8 cases had occurred.

Rabies cases have been jointly handled by the provincial health agency and husbandry agency. Vaccinations for humans are performed in 33 rabies centers housed in community health centers, Sanglah Hospital and nine regional hospitals, free of charge. In private hospitals and clinics, the vaccine is available at Rp 130,000 per injection.

Previously, Bali had targeted eliminating rabies by 2012, but this target has been revised to 2015.

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