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Strict rules set on rabies-related dog killings
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A spokesman for China's Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday that government authorities would be prudent in issuing orders to kill dogs in a rabies epidemic.

"When medical experts judge that an epidemic has become very severe and constitutes a threat to many people, killing dogs is an important measure to safeguard health and contain the epidemic," said spokesman Mao Qun'an.

"But this measure should be adopted in a prudent way," he said at a regular press conference, noting the killing mainly targeted sick dogs and stray dogs.

He said raising pets in line with the law is a citizen's right, but dog owners should take steps to prevent rabies to protect their own health and that of their neighbors.

Mao was commenting on media reports that some local governments had slaughtered dogs after rabies cases were found.

MOH statistics show that from January to October, 2,717 rabies cases were reported on the Chinese mainland, up 2.41 percent in the same period a year earlier.

Areas severely affected by rabies included Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Guizhou, Sichuan, Hunan and Guangdong provinces, Mao said.

"Most rabies cases were found in rural areas," he said, identifying that the Bijie area in northwest Guizhou province, Guigang in southeast Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Nanchong in northeast Sichuan province were the top three prefectural-level cities affected by the disease.

Mao said the occurrence of rabies was rising in China, particularly since 2000. Between 2004 to 2006, rabies had claimed 8,403 lives in the country, accounting for 30.1 percent of the total deaths from infectious diseases in the same time period. He said rabies was found in 910 counties in 23 provinces in 2007 compared to 98 counties in 1996. With more dogs being raised in China, many have not been vaccinated leading to the rabies increase. Some people had also refused to be vaccinated after they were bitten by dogs leading to a natural increase in rabies occurrences. Such problems were particularly serious in rural areas. Mao said the MOH would pay more attention to the prevention and control of rabies in rural areas in the coming years and ensure rabies vaccines were fully supplied in such areas.

Rabies is an acute viral infection that is nearly always fatal if left untreated. It can be transmitted by the bite of an infected animal, usually a dog. It kills about 50,000 people around the world annually.

(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2007)

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