The number of rabies-affected cities and counties now stands at seven, with two new cases of rabies infection in Formosan ferret-badgers confirmed on Thursday and yesterday by the Council of Agriculture, raising the total number of infected animals to 24.
“As of Thursday, 22 ferret-badgers, including one from Taichung’s Wufeng Township (霧峰) confirmed on Thursday, and one Asian house shrew were found to be infected with rabies,” Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Director Chang Su-san (張淑賢) said.
Later yesterday, the council confirmed another case from Chiayi County — the seventh city/country to become an affected region.
Responding to questions about the stock of animal rabies vaccines, Chang said a further 300,000 doses will arrive by Monday and 200,000 more by Aug. 12.
“An extra 450,000 already purchased are scheduled to arrive by the 15th, and we are to further purchase 50,000,” she said.
“By the end of this month, a total of 1.38 million doses will be available,” she said, adding that since manufacturers are planning to import more next month and in October, the stock of vaccines for animals is estimated to reach 1.71 million doses by the end of October.
“The total number of cats and dogs in Taiwan is about 1.5 million, including strays, 40 percent of which, or 900,000, are registered domestics that have been vaccinated at least once. The vaccines scheduled to arrive soon will therefore be more than enough for the remaining 60 percent,” she said.
However, Chang cautioned pet-owners that while the pets that have been vaccinated have “basic immunity” against the disease, re-vaccination is required for effective protection and the advice is it must be readministered every year.
At the press conference, the officials met a string of questions concerning the government’s preventive measures for stray animals. Among them was one about the protest raised by animal rights groups last week, accusing the council of “spewing-out half-truths” when encouraging local governments to, and placating the public by saying that they will, round up stray dogs in order to vaccinate them.
What was missing in the statement said the animal rights groups was that “animals kept in animal shelters or in the places designated by the municipal or county [city] competent authority that are not claimed, adopted or properly disposed of over 12 days following a notice or public announcement” may be killed under law.
The Life Conservationist Association, one of the protesting groups, called on the government to adopt the TNVR (Trap/Neuter/Vaccinate/Return) program, saying that the measure encouraged by the authority is one of “culling in disguise.”
The council’s Animal Protection Section chief Lin Tsung-yi (林宗毅) said returning the vaccinated stray animals back to the streets might be a problem for disease prevention because the animals will not return for the essential yearly vaccination on their own.
“What we can do is to call on the owners not to abandon their pets because of the rabies outbreak. Vaccination alone will do,” he said. “And now is actually the best timing for adoption, as all the sheltered animals are already vaccinated.”
At the same press briefing, Centers for Disease Control Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) reported that as of Thursday, 669 people have applied for the use of the human rabies vaccine, of which 391 have been approved.
Centers Director-General Chang Feng-yee (張峰義) said a program for those who had been bitten by ferret-badgers in the past year had been initiated.
“These people can call 1922, the disease prevention toll-free hotline, to be evaluated on the need to get vaccinated against rabies,” Chang said.
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