Tue, Aug 06, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Wanted: Rabies vaccine

The early bird got a shot at the vet. All the other pets and their owners will need to look elsewhere

By Enru Lin  /  Staff reporter

Last weekend, the disease control unit under Taitung’s Agriculture Department concluded phase one of a traveling vaccination program for pets and working dogs used to guard orchards in Taitung’s mountainous areas. The second wave is scheduled for mid-August, once fresh supplies arrive. At that point, the department may strengthen efforts to inoculate strays, Wu said.

Sean McCormack, founder of Taiwan Animal S.O.S., supports the government’s efforts to vaccinate dogs instead of killing strays in an organized campaign.

But Huang, another animal rights advocate, says that mass culling is happening even in the absence of a central mandate.

Spurred by public fear, many kill shelters have been strengthening their dog-catching operations; in Greater Taichung, a whopping 592 dogs and cats await death at pounds, according to Huang.

Wild Animals too?

Huang also believes that the government’s piecemeal response has missed the point so far.

“The COA needs to have a long-range plan. It needs to focus a little — rabies appeared in wild animals, so let’s address the issue of wild animals. Why is nobody doing that?” he said.

According to a BAPHIQ staffer who requested anonymity, COA officials are in fact considering a vaccination program for wild animals, but are divided over its cost-to-effectiveness ratio and the risk to tourists in baited scenic regions.

For now, it’s strictly about the dogs and cats, she continued. There are 500,000 and 200,000 doses arriving for the COA and private sector, respectively, and 270,000 doses were imported prior to the outbreak. Within a month, there should be enough doses to vaccinate some 70 percent of Taiwan’s 1.5 million dogs and cats and to contain the outbreak, according to the BAPHIQ.

Rabies is a viral disease that causes brain inflammation in mammals. It can spread from one species to another, through bites or contact with an infected animal’s saliva.

After exposure to the rabies virus, proper treatment can prevent infection in humans, but usually not in animals.

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