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Beijingers Queue for Rabies Vaccinations During Holiday
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Enjoying time at home and playing with a pet have its price -- people bitten by dogs and needing rabies vaccines in Beijing rose sharply during the National Day holidays.


The Peking University People's Hospital received more than 200 people for rabies vaccinations on Wednesday and Thursday. Queues were seen outside the vaccination room.


From Sunday to Wednesday, the China-Japan Friendship Hospital inoculated 500 people, including 100 bitten by dogs, during the four days.


The daily injection rate was 20 percent higher than normal, said a doctor surnamed Su with the China-Japan Friendship Hospital.


Most people were adults who played with their dogs at home and some were bitten in their sleep, according to the Beijing Morning Post.


An old woman interviewed by the paper said she was bitten during a dog fight in a lift.


Some people were bitten by unchained dogs taken for a walk by neighbors.


In Wangjing and Tiantong residential compounds in northern Beijing, about 30 percent of residents did not chain their dogs outside their home.


Rabies, often spread by dog bites, attacks the nervous system and is fatal in humans if not treated prior to the onset of symptoms.


The virus can infect people through bites and scratches no matter how serious the injury. People bitten or injured must wash the wound with water containing 20 percent of soap for 20 minutes and go to hospital immediately, said doctor Zhang Haicheng with the People's Hospital.


Instant vaccination was needed not only for dog, but also for cat, bat and other wild animal bites, despite previous vaccinations, said another doctor Wang Chuanlin.


Five consecutive injections were needed in every case, warned doctors.


China ranks the second in the world after India in terms of the number of rabies cases, according to the Ministry of Health.


Every year, more than 50,000 people around the world die of the disease, with most of them in developing countries.


The incidence of rabies has been rising throughout the country this year, official figures have shown.


The number of vaccinations in Beijing jumped to 15,000 in June from 8,000 in January, with a total of 69,332 in the first half year, according to the municipal center for disease control and prevention.


The health ministry reported 1,874 rabies cases, including 1,735 deaths, in the country during the first eight months, up 29.2 percent over the same period last year.


The ministry's website shows that 2,660 people died from rabies in 2004, while in 1996 there were only 159 reported fatalities. Rabies was the second most common deadly infectious disease after tuberculosis last year, accounting for 19 percent of the total deaths.


China has some 150 million pet dogs, according to estimates.


Experts say pet owners who abandon their dogs are mainly responsible for the increase in the disease as stray dogs that have not been vaccinated are most likely to contract rabies.


To curb rising rabies cases, local governments have tried various measures. In Mouding County of southwest China's Yunnan Province, the government slaughtered 50,000 dogs after three deaths were reported, sparking a nationwide debate.


The Beijing municipal government requires rabies cases or suspected rabies cases to be immediately reported to the health department.


Dog owners in Beijing will face harsh penalties in the future if they raise their pets in violation of regulations.


Their dogs may be confiscated and they may be fined up to 5,000 yuan (US$625) if they keep a dog without a permit, fail to carry out annual health checks on their pets, keep big dogs in downtown areas, have more than one dog at one home or take them to places where dogs are not permitted.


The health ministry would also strengthen prevention of rabies in rural areas, where dogs are not widely vaccinated and medical treatment for people is inadequate, said vice Health Minister Jiang Zuojun.


(Xinhua News Agency October 7, 2006)

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