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COA confirms rabies in Taitung house shrew

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A house shrew that bit a woman in Taitung City on July 24 has been confirmed to have been a carrier of the rabies virus, according to the Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday.

The COA said that this is the first confirmed cross-species rabies infection since the first ferret-badger with rabies was discovered earlier this month.

The council also announced yesterday that two more ferret-badgers have been confirmed to have the rabies virus, bringing the national total of rabies cases to 15.

The two cases were from Nantou County's Renai Township and Kaohsiung City's Meinong District, according to the COA.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 100 people visited hospitals on Monday for animal bites, asking to receive rabies vaccination.

The CDC said that only 49 people were allowed to receive vaccinations after undergoing medical evaluations. The patients were mostly bitten by dogs and ferret-badgers, according to the CDC.

Chang Feng-yee, head of the CDC, said that since rabies has not been discovered in cats and dogs so far, only people who are scratched or bitten by cats and dogs in the areas where rabies cases are confirmed can receive vaccinations.

“However,” Chang said, “people who are bitten by ferret-badgers in any areas of Taiwan should immediately go to hospitals to receive rabies vaccinations.”

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

Hung Shih-en, who works at an animal shelter in Changhua County, said that the shelter requested 10,000 rabies vaccines from the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, but so far the shelter only received around 1,000 to 2,000 vaccines.

“How are we supposed to fight rabies without weapons,” said Hung.

The head of Taitung County's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine Wu Tzu-ho said that Taitung is listed as a key area of rabies prevention, but there are only 2,000 rabies vaccines in stock that will be used up in the following two to three days.

“There will be another week before the new batch of vaccines arrives,” Wu said, “which may potentially harm rabies prevention measures.”

Pet Abandonment Increases by 30%

Local animal shelters yesterday said that the amount of pet dogs and cats that have been abandoned due to the fear of rabies has increased by 30 percent.

Hung, who works at an animal shelter in Changhua County, said that ever since a ferret-badger was confirmed to have rabies in Changhua County, the number of pet cats and dogs that have been abandoned has increased by 30 percent.

“The amount of animals in the public animal shelter of Changhua has already reached its maximum,” said Hung, “and now with more animals coming in, the over-crowded environment might trigger different types of contagious diseases.”

Lin Cheng-chung, an associate professor of National Chung Hsing University's Veterinary Pathobiology department, said that if pets receive rabies vaccinations then they are not at risk of getting the disease.

“Pet owners should not abandon their pets because of their fears of rabies,” said Lin.

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Two people check the announcement posted on an animal disease prevention office in Nantou County, yesterday. According to the COA, all animals in shelters nationwide should receive vaccinations before Aug. 5. Some local animal shelters said, however, that the vaccines in stock are insufficient to do so. (CNA)

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