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Published On: Mon, Aug 5th, 2013

Taiwan’s first rabies outbreak since 1959 expands, number of confirmed animal infections now at 40

The last time the island nation of Taiwan saw a case of rabies was in 1959. After being more than 50 years rabies-free, the lethal virus reappeared last July 17 in a Formosan ferret-badger.

Image/Taiwan CDC

Image/Taiwan CDC

Since that first case, another 39 animals have been confirmed positive for rabies, all Formosan ferret-badgers and one Asian house shrew.

To date, no dogs have been affected and there has not been a human case.

Xinhua reports the epidemic has aroused panic on the island. Some people have abandoned their pet cats and dogs, despite experts’ assurances that their animals are safe from the epidemic as long as they have been vaccinated against rabies.

The outbreak has prompted the government to procure rabies vaccine to protect humans, with thousands of doses expected to arrive to supplement current stocks.

In addition, in response to this new outbreak,  the Executive Yuan activated the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) for Rabies to closely monitor the situation last Thursday.

Focus Taiwan reported today that analysis of the virus shows  the strains of the rabies virus found in Taiwan are highly similar to those found in China.

In the latest test, the researchers determined after analyzing the virus strains found in rabies-infected Formosan ferret-badgers in Taiwan that they are about 90 percent similar to those found in China and can be classified into three types, said Tsai Hsiang-jung, director-general of the council’s Animal Health Research Institute.

The Vice Premier of the Executive Yuan, Dr. Chi-Kuo Mao said that rabies is widely distributed around the world, with only 9 countries being free of the disease. Nevertheless, as long as relevant prevention activities, including rabies vaccination of domestic pets and avoiding contacts with wild animals, are carefully followed, the occurrence of human rabies cases remains rare.

In addition, when post-exposure rabies prophylaxis is properly administered, deaths caused by rabies are extremely rare. As a result, the public is urged not to panic. The government is working toward a comprehensive approach to rabies prevention and control. The government has planned to procure more human rabies vaccine and human rabies immune globulin (HRIG).

Furthermore, to ensure the public has access to the most current and accurate information on rabies prevention and control, Taiwan CDC has set up a rabies website and uploaded relevant health education and health promotion materials, including posters, brochures, and newsflash, to the website.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. Taiwan: Chiayi County woman bitten by rabid ferret-badger | Outbreak News Today says:

    […] more than five decades, Taiwan was rabies-free–that was until 2013 when the lethal virus reappeared in a Formosan […]

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