All six recently confirmed cases of rabies in Taiwan involved wild Formosan ferret-badgers, the Council of Agriculture’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine said yesterday, adding that another suspected case has been listed after a house shrew tested positive for the rabies-like lyssavirus.
Lyssavirus is a group of viruses that includes the rabies virus, bureau director Chang Su-san (張淑賢) said, adding that the house shrew tested positive for lyssavirus type 3 and that further test results will be released next week.
The house shrew attacked a woman at her home in Taitung County on Wednesday, but she later killed it.
Chang said the woman was not bitten by the shrew and was not hospitalized, but 5,000 doses of rabies vaccine for pets were sent to the Taitung county government yesterday morning.
Responding to questions on whether the rabies virus had spread from wild animals in mountainous areas to urban animals, following the case of the shrew, Chang said it was not yet confirmed that the house shrew had rabies.
She added that the bureau has instructed local governments to increase rat prevention measures as well as capture stray animals for rabies vaccinations.
The bureau, meanwhile, confirmed that the rabies virus was detected in two dead wild Formosan ferret-badgers found on Friday — one that was hit by a car in Taitung County’s Donghe Township (東河) and the other reported by a dog owner in Nantou County’s Shueili Township (水里) after his dogs brought home a dead ferret-badger.
Chang said the two dogs that fetched the dead ferret-badger are being quarantined.
The bureau urged the public to avoid contact with wild animals, not to abandon their pets and to have domestic animals vaccinated against rabies. People should also report any findings of dead animals, it added.
During a visit to the Central Epidemic Command Center in Taipei yesterday morning, Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) urged government agencies to work together to prevent the spread of rabies, after its the reappearance in Taiwan after more than 50 years.
Jiang said the government is stepping up efforts to catch and vaccinate stray animals in Nantou, Yunlin and Taitung counties, where the six infections occurred.
Some local government officials have blamed the central government for a lack of preemptive measures.
“It seems like the central government is not doing enough prevention work and can only ask us to send animals in for testing,” said Taitung County Agriculture Department director Wu Ching-jung (吳慶榮).
Additional reporting by staff writer