Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers yesterday warned the government against taking a potential rabies outbreak lightly and urged the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to make it a national security issue.
DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng (高志鵬) told a news conference that while no human infections have been reported so far, and only 14 out of 59 wild carnivorous animals have tested positive for the virus — which has been reported in Taiwan for the first time in more than 50 years — the government needs to take pre-emptive measures against the virus’ potential spread.
Gao was speaking before an Asian house shrew was discovered to have been infected, later yesterday.
All of the 14 reported cases involving Formosan ferret-badgers from mountainous areas, with seven cases reported in Nantou County, one each in Yunlin County, Greater Taichung and Greater Tainan, and two each in Greater Kaohsiung and Taitung County, the Council of Agriculture said.
DPP Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) raised concerns about cross-species infection.
Cross-species infections, especially to dogs and cats, would mean the threat to humans would increase dramatically due to the large number of people who have household pets.
Chao Pan-hua (趙磐華), Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine deputy director, said that while cross-species infection was possible, it would take more research and further clinical cases to make an assessment of likelihood.
The council has prepared 100,000 doses of rabies vaccine to lessen the chances of the virus spreading to pets and stray animals, Deputy Minister Wang Cheng-teng (王政騰) said, adding that there were an estimated 230,000 doses available in the private sector.
Another 1.2 million doses of vaccines for public inventory and 500,000 for private veterinary hospitals are on order, Wang said.
DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) urged Ma to convene a National Security Council meeting on the recent rabies cases, saying that a mass outbreak could jeopardize people’s lives as well as the nation’s tourism industry and agricultural exports.