The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has ruled out cases of rabies infections in humans in the past three years, after testing specimens from patients with encephalitis or encephalomyelitis, the agency said yesterday.
The biological specimens, taken from more than 130 patients and dating back to 2010, all tested negative for rabies, CDC Director-General Chang Feng-yee (張峰義) said.
Rabies, a disease caused by a neurotropic virus, can be transmitted between animals and humans through close contact with infectious material, usually saliva, via bites or scratches.
The disease is one of the most common causes of acute viral encephalitis and encephalomyelitis, and it is almost always fatal after clinical signs start appearing.
The disease was thought to have been eradicated from Taiwan for more than half a century until mid-July, when several dead Formosan ferret-badgers were confirmed to have been infected.
An analysis of the virus strains found in the rabid animals suggests that it had been lurking in Taiwan’s mountainous areas for years before being discovered by animal health authorities.
One of the first discovered cases was a Formosan ferret-badger found in Nantou County in May last year.
Since then, a total of 48 ferret-badgers have been confirmed to be infected, along with one Asian house shrew.
Nine people who were bitten or scratched by ferret-badgers between May last year and July this year have received medical evaluations, although none of them have shown any symptoms of infection, the CDC said.
Regardless, all of them will likely be given rabies vaccinations as a preventative measure, it added.