Four new cases of rabies infection in wild Formosan ferret-badgers were confirmed yesterday, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center, bringing the number of confirmed cases in ferret-badgers to 128 nationwide, and the total number of cases across all animals to 130.
The four new cases of ferret-badger infection occurred in Lugu Township (鹿谷) and Shueili Township (水里) of Nantou County, along with Guanshan Township (關山) of Taitung County.
Center officials confirmed on Tuesday in Taitung County the first known rabies infection in a dog — a one-and-a-half-month-old puppy that had been bitten by a rabid ferret-badger and had to be euthanized.
It was the first time the deadly disease had been found in dogs in Taiwan since the rabies outbreak was reported among ferret-badgers in mid-July after a hiatus of more than five decades.
Before the case, infections had been confined to ferret-badgers, except for one involving an Asian house shrew, the center said.
Center staff said that before Wednesday this week, a total of 541 wild carnivorous animals had been tested, leading to the 128 cases of rabies in Formosan ferret-badgers confirmed.
The officials indicated infection is mostly limited to countryside hills and mountainous regions, covering a total of 47 townships in nine counties and municipalities.
Center officials indicated the main task right now is to contain the rabies infection in the hills and mountain regions, and to build up a “protective barrier zone” around the affected areas. To do so, the center said they are providing 8,500 vaccine doses for household dogs and cats, and have organized an education campaign in these areas.
The center urged people to keep their distance from wild animals and to make sure their pets are vaccinated.
If pets display erratic behavior such as appetite loss, restlessness or aggression, owners should alert authorities immediately, the center said.
Due to the confirmed canine case in Taitung, center officials yesterday said that live animal experimentation is necessary to gain a better understanding of virus’ latent period, progression of symptoms, infection on the central nervous system and rate of toxin release.
The experimentation will be conducted as early as the end of this month and will be carried out first in mice, then Formosan ferret-badgers, followed by beagle dogs.