China: Human Rabies Death Toll Continues to Rise

From: ProMED Digest V2003 #451
Source: Reuters Health online, Tue 25 Nov 2003 [edited]

Rabies cases leapt nearly 63 percent in China in the first 9 months
of 2003 as the people's mad affair with pet dogs deepened, the China
Daily reported on Tue 25 Nov 2003. Rabies, "mad dog disease" in
Chinese, killed 1297 people up to the end of September 2003, far
exceeding the 1003 deaths the Health Ministry reported for all of
2002, the newspaper said. This is the 5th straight year that China
has seen a big jump in rabies infections.

"Experts from the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention are
blaming the trend on pet ownership, the shaky quality of
vaccinations, the public's weak awareness of vigilance and the low
vaccination rate among dogs as the major causes of the rapid rise in
cases," the newspaper stated. Another factor was stray dogs running
wild on the outskirts of cities and in rural areas. The ministry said
earlier this year that rabies was the most deadly infectious killer
in China, well surpassing SARS and AIDS.

Pet dogs were shunned in the days of Mao Zedong as a symbol of
bourgeois decadence, and dog is still a popular restaurant dish. But
pet pooches have become increasingly popular in the last decade with
improved living standards.

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[Recent statements on the reasons for the increased number of cases
of human rabies in China have lacked consistency. The China Daily
article above attributes the increase in number of human deaths to
pet ownership and low canine vaccination rates. However a previous
ProMED-mail correspondent (see: Rabies - China (Guangxi) (03)
20031114.2830) observed that: "China has uniform compulsory
vaccination of pet dogs, and it seems to be rather stringently
enforced. If the owner is not carrying a vaccination certificate when
asked to produce it, the dog is often killed on the spot." In
contrast, "there is no requirement that dogs raised and sold for meat
must be vaccinated. The overwhelming majority of the dogs which have
been killed as a result of rabies outbreaks this year have been in
dog meat production areas, where there are few if any pet dogs." The
ambivalent attitude of the Chinese to dogs would appear to be a major
factor in the failure to control this outbreak. - Mod.CP (ProMED-mail moderator)]

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