Rabies vaccination rate in Taitung, worst-affected area, remains low


CNA

TAIPEI–Rabies infections have been continuing in Taiwan’s southeastern county of Taitung, but the rabies vaccination rate among dogs and cats there is so low that it has failed to reach the 90 percent required for a high-risk zone.

Since July 2013, when rabies was rediscovered in Taiwan after the island had been free of the disease since the early 1960s, Taitung County had, as of Dec. 15, recorded a total of 223 cases that have tested positive for rabies, according to the county’s Animal Disease Control Center. The infected animals include 219 ferret-badgers, two masked palm civets, one dog and one house shrew. Center chief Wu Tzu-ho said Monday that the outbreak in Taitung is the worst nationwide, and is still continuing. This year alone, Taitung has reported nine rabies infections among ferret-badgers and two infections in masked palm civets as of Dec. 10, according to Council of Agriculture (COA) statistics. However, as of Dec. 15, only 16,494 dogs and cats had been given rabies vaccinations in Taitung this year. The figure represents a vaccination rate of 57 percent, far lower than the 90 percent required to immunize the county against rabies, Wu said.

With such a low vaccination rate, “dogs, cats and people cannot be effectively protected,” he said.

He attributed the low vaccination rate to a decline in people’s awareness of a crisis, causing people to be reluctant to take their pet dogs and cats for vaccination.

Vaccination is a crucial measure in the fight against the rabies virus, according to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under the Cabinet-level COA.

If the vaccination rate can reach more than 70 percent, rabies transmissions between people and animals can be prevented, the bureau said.

Rabies cases have been reported in 72 townships in nine counties and cities around Taiwan since 2013. The disease has been confined mainly to wild ferret-badgers, with only a few cases involving masked palm civets. Under the Statute for Prevention and Control of Infectious Animal, the owners of dogs and cats are obliged to have their pets inoculated against rabies every year. Those who violate the regulation can be punished with fines ranging from NT$30,000 (US$912) to NT$150,000.

On Monday, five people were slapped with fines of NT$30,000 each in Taitung for failing to have their 29 dogs vaccinated, even after the county government notified them of the requirement to do so.