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Premier Jiang urges public to stay alert to rabies danger

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) yesterday emphasized the importance of taking preventive measures when facing the danger of rabies.

Jiang was speaking during the weekly Cabinet meeting in which a reporter raised the question of whether there will be a rabies outbreak in one year's time.

Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) chief Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) and Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) both attended the meeting to address the recent developments on the rabies issue. Chiu said that the best approach to controlling the spread of rabies is through the control of stray animals and human infections.

Regarding the reappearance of the fatal zoonotic viral disease, Jiang urged the public to take proper precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, as this is the most effective way to reduce the chance of infection.

Jiang stated that the most important thing is to avoid feeding, catching or having close contact with wild animals, since one of the major sources of rabies infections in humans is rabid wild animals.

One should report to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (動物防疫機關) upon discovery of any ill animal. If bitten, one should immediately use soap and fresh water to clean the wound, followed by the use of iodine or 70-percent concentrated ethanol to disinfect the wound before getting to the hospital as soon as possible, said Jiang.

The MHW has ordered and will be distributing more vaccinations and immunoglobulin injections. Chiu stated that about 1,040 vaccines arrived yesterday, while 800 vaccines arrived today, 700 vaccines will arrive soon and about 5,000 vaccines are set to arrive in August. Currently all of the vaccines are imported, as the domestic production of vaccines is insufficient, said Chiu.

Jiang pointed out that rabies in Taiwan now appears to be spreading, as evidence shows infected cases from different mountain regions across various counties. In an effort to contain the spread of the disease, the Cabinet unveiled the “rabies prevention cross-departmental cooperation team” (狂犬病防治跨部會工作小組), a joint effort between the COA and MHW.

The team will proactively organize prevention measures including but not limited to: disease monitoring and research, vaccine distribution, managing clinical evaluations, prevention vaccinations in pets, managing stray animals and educating the public.

The meeting concluded that priorities of immunoglobulin injections and human rabies vaccinations would be given to urgent cases. Meanwhile everyone should stay tuned to the news about rabies developments, avoid contact with stray animals, stay alert and report to related authorities any cases of animal bites.

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This picture shows a box of Rabipur PCEC Rabies Vaccines Behring Powder — a vaccine that prevents rabies infection. The Public Health Bureau in Changhua announced that the county contains 35 shots of rabies vaccinations. The government announced yesterday that roughly 2,000 vaccines will be imported to Taiwan by next month. (CNA)

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