CDC to ramp up rabies control

KEEPING WATCH::As well as vaccinating frontline staff, the centers is set to actively monitor animal populations as it seeks to understand the severity of the outbreak

By Alison Hsiao and Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporters

Mon, Aug 05, 2013 - Page 3

Ten thousand doses of rabies vaccine for human use and 600 doses of human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) have arrived and are today to be distributed to designated hospitals and local government disease control centers respectively, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said yesterday.

Chuang added that 300 frontline disease prevention workers, who are at a high risk of close contact with rabid animals, have been given the first shot of the three-dose pre-exposure rabies vaccination, and starting today, 1,000 more workers are scheduled to be immunized.

The vaccination program for frontline workers paves the way for an active surveillance project which is scheduled to launch next month.

Testing a selection of animal corpses for rabies, which is what the CDC has been doing up to now, is passive surveillance, but “to understand whether we are at the peak of the infection or at some other stage,” requires active surveillance of wild ferret-badgers and other wildlife populations for rabies infections, Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Director Chang Su-san (張淑賢) said.

“Only by having a grasp of the size of such populations can we estimate the prevalence of rabies and know what stage this outbreak is at,” she said.

Responding to Tunghai University life science professor Lin Liang-kong’s (林良恭) advice that the government should start active surveillance as early as this month as carnivorous animals will begin to reproduce next month, making infection containment more difficult due to population increases, Chang said that the authority needs time to conduct evaluations and preparations before taking any action.

This is true for both active surveillance and a proposed plan of placing doses of oral vaccine inside bait in the mountains, she added.

According to the Central Epidemic Command Center for rabies, the number of confirmed cases yesterday of rabies infections in animals remains the same (36) — of which 35 involved Formosan ferret-badgers and one a house shrew — as does the number of affected areas (seven).

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) said that starting this month, passengers carrying house shrews, Formosan ferret-badgers or other types of animals of the kind that have been reported to have been infected with rabies would be banned from boarding trains.

Passengers who carry these animals may face penalties and be asked to leave the train, the agency said, adding the list of the banned animals would be updated should there be infections found in other animals.

Train rules governing carry-on items require passengers to place dogs, cats, fish or other pets in containers less than 43cm in length, 32cm wide and 31cm high, the TRA said.

Under these rules, passengers are also barred from taking pets out and playing with them.

The TRA said it is entitled to terminate the service for passengers violating the rules and ask them to leave the train at the next station if violations are discovered.

Taiwan High Speed Rail Corp said it only allows passengers to bring cats and dogs on board, which must be kept in containers at all times.