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Pets in mountain areas to get free rabies vaccines

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday announced that all pets in mountainous areas will be eligible to receive free rabies vaccinations, as part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

According to the COA, the total number of Formosan ferret-badgers confirmed to have contracted rabies has reached 12, with the cases coming from Nantou County, Taitung City, Yunlin County, Taichung, Tainan and Kaohsiung.

Chang Shu-hsien (張淑賢), head of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ), said that 77,000 rabies vaccines have been sent to the six affected counties and cities.

“There are still around 60,000 rabies vaccines for animals remaining,” Chang said, “and the bureau is scheduled to purchase another 500,000 so people do not have to worry about the availability of vaccines.”

“So far rabies has only been discovered in ferret-badgers, but BAPHIQ officials have been setting up vaccination stations in mountainous areas to stop the virus from being spread (to other animals),” he said

Chang said that in order to identify the type of rabies virus discovered in Taiwan, the bureau has invited experts from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and China to examine samples of the virus.

According to the COA, all animals in shelters nationwide should receive vaccinations before Aug. 5. However, some local animal shelters said that the vaccines in stock are insufficient to do so.

There are around 6,800 cats and dogs in government-funded animal shelters, while there are around 33,000 in privately run shelters.

CDC Prioritizes Subjects for Rabies Vaccination

Four categories of people have been prioritized to receive publicly funded rabies vaccinations, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chou Chih-hau (周志浩) announced yesterday.

Chou said that the top priority are those who live in areas where rabies-infected animals have been discovered, followed by COA and CDC officials who might come in contact with wild animals. Veterinarians are the fourth priority group.

“People who are not in the four priority groups can only receive vaccinations after being bitten by animals.”

Also yesterday, COA Deputy Minister Wang Cheng-teng (王政騰) said that there are no plans to cull stray animals.

“The COA will always allow stray cats and dogs to receive rabies vaccinations before putting them in animal shelters,” said Wang.

Difficult Fight Ahead

CDC head Chang Feng-yee (張峰義) said that rabies prevention will be a tough fight for the people of Taiwan.

“It is important for those who are bitten or scratched by wild animals to immediately go to a nearby hospital so doctors can evaluate if a vaccination is necessary,” said Chang.

According to Chang, there are 28 hospitals nationwide that have rabies vaccines for humans in stock, with the number to be increased by up to 54 next week.

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Pet owners wait to have their animals vaccinated against rabies at a veterinary clinic in Kaohsiung, yesterday. The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine said that it is in the process of purchasing 500,000 more animal rabies vaccines, so pet owners do not need to worry. (CNA)

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