Mass rabies vaccinations called for

Updated: 2013-09-29 09:26

By Yang Yao (China Daily)

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Vaccinating dogs is the most effective way to stem rabies, experts said ahead of Saturday's World Rabies Day.

Rabies kill more than 2,400 people a year in China - the most in the world after India, the National Health and Family Planning Commission has reported.

More than 95 percent of human rabies deaths in Africa and Asia result from infected dogs biting people, the World Society for the Protection of Animals said. Children younger than 15 account for up to 60 percent of rabies deaths and of all dog bites.

"Although rabies is renowned as one of the world's deadliest infectious diseases, it is preventable," WSPA spokeswoman Xiao Changyan said.

Mass dog vaccinations is virtually 100 percent effective in preventing the disease. This requires cooperation among human and animal health sectors, she said.

Animal protection advocate Zhang Dan said thousands of China's dogs are culled annually because of rabies, especially in southern and eastern regions.

The WSPA and China's Animal Disease Control Center have signed an agreement to cooperate on a four-year project to save at least 500,000 dogs from being needlessly killed because of rabies.

They established a pilot mass dog vaccination project in Anhui province's Shoushi, Guizhou province's Tongzi and Shaanxi province's Hancheng.

"We strongly advocate animal welfare agencies create close partnerships with human health, education and social welfare agencies to eradicate rabies," Xiao said.

Trained animal handlers give red collars to the dogs they immunize, she explained. The collars are symbols of proactive measures to protect people and animals.

"We will also work on rabies' surveillance; humane prevention, control and elimination; and human and animal health and welfare," Xiao said.

Public awareness about pet-ownership is also crucial to stemming rabies, said a Beijing Center for Disease Control spokesman, who refused to be named.

More than 1 million pet dogs are registered in Beijing, government figures showed.

Human deaths in the capital from the disease jumped to 13 last year - a 160 percent jump over 2011 levels.

More than 90,000 people in the city received rabies vaccinations after being bitten or scratched by dogs or cats this year, official figures showed.