Thailand vaccinating stray pets to halt spread of rabies epidemic

World Today

Thailand is battling to halt the spread of a rabies epidemic, which has already claimed seven lives. Stray cats and dogs are being rounded up, but the authorities have huge numbers of animals to cope with. CGTN’s Martin Lowe reports.

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In Bangkok, vets are vaccinating stray cats and dogs, as well as domestic pets brought by their owners, in mobile units which serve as the front line in the fight against Thailand’s rabies epidemic.

Some animals are also being sterilized to prevent breeding.

Rabies causes inflammation of the brain, and in humans it is almost always fatal.

Seven people – including two children – have died after being infected in the first 76 days of the year – that’s more than half of Thailand’s 2017 total. All were thought to have been bitten by stray animals.

Bangkok is one of 39 Thai provinces that have been declared Rabies Epidemic Zones.

“People need to be aware of the situation but not panic,” said Dr. Viriya Kaewthong, director-general of the Bureau of Disease Control at the Thai Ministry of Agriculture.

“Our advice is to keep away from animals that you do not know.”

Already 400 animals have been confirmed to have rabies, a disease readily passed to people through a bite or saliva.

Many owners know the need for vaccination but say they can’t afford the cost.

Thailand has huge numbers of stray dogs. One charity, the Soi Dog Foundation, estimates as many as eight million across the country. Authorities are now looking at an ongoing vaccination program.

Globally, there are thousands of rabies deaths each year, with 95 per cent of fatalities occurring in Africa and Asia.

Thailand suffered a major rabies outbreak in 1980 that resulted in 370 deaths – but in recent years the number of victims has been low. It’s hoped swift action now can halt further spread of the disease.