Beijing is vaccinating about 700,000 dogs registered in the city in a bid to prevent rabies.
The annual anti-rabies inoculation, which started Thursday and will last till June 30, is free of charge, said Yu Hongyuan, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Public Security.
To control the rising number of dogs, especially stray dogs, local authorities encouraged dog owners to have their animals sterilized, Yu said, adding that they will get 200 yuan (28.6 U.S. dollars) in reward if they are willing to do so.
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 globally each year.
Beijing has reported few incidents of rabies. From 1994 to 2004, no cases of rabies had occurred in the Chinese capital. Since August 2005, there have been six deaths from the disease, according to the Beijing Municipal Health Bureau.
In early March, the bureau announced the first human death from rabies this year in Beijing. The victim, a 48-year-old man surnamed Liu, was from northern Hebei Province and worked as a stoker at a company in southern Beijing's Daxing District.
Two months ago, a stray dog bit his left hand, but he was not vaccinated against the rabies virus, nor did he go to a clinic for treatment. He just cleaned the wound with water himself.
Symptoms of the disease appeared on Feb. 24 and Liu died four days later.
(Xinhua News Aggency May 2, 2008)