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
(Xinhua News Agency November 13, 2007)