The Council of Agriculture is to hold a conference today with disease prevention experts to discuss the current status of rabies infections in the nation, as well as to review preventative measures for both animals and humans, including the possible use of oral vaccines for wild animals in mountainous areas.
Commenting on the often mentioned proposal to distribute doses of orally-administered rabies vaccine on bait to wildlife in the mountains, Chang Su-san (張淑賢), director of the council’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, said that such a program cannot be implemented without a thorough evaluation.
“Oral vaccines that have been used for many years in the US and Europe are of various different kinds, and rather than being created specifically for ferret-badgers, the target animals of these vaccines are raccoons and foxes. Therefore, it remains to be seen what the best way is to administer vaccine-laden bait given Formosan ferret-badgers’ type of mouth,” Chang said.
“In addition, questions such as how effective the oral vaccine is in preventing rabies infections in ferret-badgers and what risks such distribution might pose to the environment and human populations also need to be answered,” Chang added.
The timing of any distribution, given that the summer in Taiwan is torrid and humid with risk of typhoons, also requires careful assessment,” Chang said.
The director added that the four US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff who arrived in Taipei on Saturday will be visiting research centers and several rabies-affected regions during their stay.
Regarding the amount of rabies vaccine available for animal use, she said that in the past week alone 883,000 doses have been imported, and that as of the end of this month about 2 million doses will be available.
“Once immunization coverage among dogs and cats in the nation — estimated to be 1.58 million — reaches 70 to 80 percent, rabies outbreaks can be prevented,” Chang said.
When asked about animal shelter occupancy, after dog catchers began increasing efforts to round up stray dogs, Animal Protection section chief Lin Tsung -Yi (林宗毅) said the central authority has subsidized local governments to purchase facilities to increase their available space.
“Occupancy levels have been increased by 38 percent as the result of the subsidy. There are about 7,200 dogs and cats in such shelters now, still within the permissible range,” Lin said.
Lin added that the number of dogs that have been adopted in the past few weeks has almost tripled, from about 55 a day to 154 per day.
However, he admitted the possibility that the increase might have been largely due to animal protection groups, who fear that the animals might soon be put down due to overcrowding at the shelters.