Rabies cases have increased this year, with the infectious disease posing a greater threat to health, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday.
MOH spokesman Mao Qun'an told a press conference that 2,717 rabies cases had been reported in the first 10 months of the year, against 2,653 during the same period of last year.
The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Guizhou, Sichuan, Hunan and Guangdong provinces have been the hardest hit places.
The situation in Guangxi is especially worse because five of the 10 worst-hit counties are in the southwestern autonomous region.
China has the largest number of recorded rabies cases after India where rabies claims about 20,000 lives a year.
Mao said rabies cases have been increasing in the country since 2000. The lowest number of cases reported was 156 in 1996, thanks to government measures to control the spread of the disease after rabies claimed a record 5,323 lives in 1983.
But the number is rising again. Rabies claimed the lives of 8,403 people, that is, 30.1 percent of those killed by contagious diseases, between 2004 and 2006.
Rabies today is the top killer among the 37 reported infectious diseases. It is spreading faster and wider, with 910 counties reporting the disease this year, compared to just 98 in 1996.
"The major reasons for that are more people keeping dogs and cats as pets, many of which are not vaccinated," Mao said.
The MOH spokesman urged pet owners to get their pets vaccinated on time. He, however, said the government won't deprive people of the right to keep pets.
"But if the disease threatens public health, there is a possibility that steps will be taken to kill infectious dogs," he said.
(China Daily November 13, 2007)