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Rabies Under Control in Beijing
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Five people had died from rabies in Beijing as of Aug. 21 this year, with close to 70,000 people in the capital reporting being bitten by dogs in the first half of the year, according to local health authorities on Wednesday.

Only one of the five people who died in Beijing contracted rabies in the city. The four others came down with the disease in other parts of the country and were rushed to the capital for treatment.

The man who contracted the fatal disease in Beijing was not a permanent resident. He raised pigs and is believed to have been infected by a dog that he had brought from his country town, according to the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau.

Everyone who reported being bitten by a dog in Beijing was inoculated against rabies and none of them developed the disease, according to the bureau.

The bureau says no permanent resident of Beijing has died from rabies since the city issued regulations governing pet ownership in 1994.

While it appears Beijing has been able to control the disease, which causes an agonizing death, other parts of the country are reporting serious increases in the disease.

The Ministry of Health's website shows that 2,660 people died from rabies in 2004, while in 1996 there were only 159 reported fatalities from the disease. The website also reports that in 2004rabies made up just over 35 percent of all deaths from its list of37 infectious diseases.

East China's Shandong Province had reported 46 cases of rabies by the end of July this year, more than double the rate for the same period last year.

An outbreak of rabies killed 16 people in 14 townships around Jining city in Shandong Province prior to Aug. 3.

Wang Ya, a member of the Shandong Provincial People's Political Consultative Conference, said an explosion in the number of pet dogs is a major factor in the increase in rabies cases.

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

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

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

Vaccination is the key to preventing rabies, said Wei Haitao, head of the Beijing General Center of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary.

Wei said Beijing has set up 91 rabies vaccination centers in eight urban districts, or one vaccination center per square kilometer.

Besides, 186 townships in the 10 suburban districts and counties have also set up anti-rabies vaccination centers.

Beijing health authorities have called on local people to be vigilant about rabies after several rabies outbreaks in other parts of the country.

The Beijing health bureau warned pet owners who have not yet registered their dogs that their pets must be vaccinated against rabies. Dog breeding farms must be at least 500 meters from residential areas and water sources, and must carry out strict vaccination measures.

Mouding County of southwest China's Yunnan Province reported the deaths of three people from rabies in July. They died within ten days of being bitten even though they had received treatment. The outraged community slaughtered 50,000 dogs after the deaths were reported.

An official with the Mouding county animal husbandry bureau said that only 4,292 of the county's more than 50,000 dogs were vaccinated.

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 punishment in the future if they raise their pets in violation of regulations, according to local public security authorities.

Their pet 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 check-ups on their pets, keep big dogs in downtown areas, have more than one dog at one home or take their pets to places where dogs are not permitted.

More rigid measures must be adopted regarding pet ownership, vaccination and registration to root out the occurrence of rabies, said Wang, the Shandong official, adding public awareness of rabies should be boosted.

East China metropolis Shanghai has reported three deaths of people from rabies so far this year. None of the three sought medical treatment after being bitten by dogs, according to local health officials.

The health ministry has launched a program to conduct regular monitoring of rabies across the country to collect evidence and use it as a basis for drafting regulations that can effectively control rabies.

(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2006)

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