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June 26, 2017

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COA rabies tests on dogs, other animals to go ahead

Minister Chen Bao-ji of the Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday personally confirmed for the first time that rabies experimentation on dogs, mice and ferret-badgers will be carried out.

The COA announced on Aug. 14 that 14 healthy and lively beagle puppies will be chosen to be bitten by ferret-badgers that are infected with rabies in order to find out if the virus strain discovered in Taiwan can be transmitted to dogs. The plans have triggered protests from animal activists and some experts.

Chen officially published a report on the proposed animal experimentation project yesterday, stating in it that the tests are "definitely" necessary.

The results from the experiments will become a crucial reference in rabies prevention planning in the future, said Chen.

According to Chen, experts from the Animal Health Research Institute (AHRI) and the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) under the COA as well as from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a meeting to discuss if it is necessary to conduct experiments on animals.

After the meeting, Chen said, the COA decided to conduct rabies experiments on dogs, mice and ferret-badgers in order to understand the infection pattern of ferret-badgers.

Even though the rabies virus came from China and based on the nation's experience that the rabies virus carried by ferret-badgers can also infect dogs and humans, Chen said, the rabies virus in Taiwan has developed further for at least 10 years, so it is necessary to conduct experiments to study the virus.

Chen said that the first-stage experiment will be on mice, testing the death rate caused by the rabies virus and the connection between the virus and the species.

Experiments on dogs will be the second stage, Chen said, and the main focus will be on if the rabies virus found in ferret-badgers can be transmitted to dogs and how substantial the dose of rabies must be in order to lead to the dogs' deaths.

The experiment on ferret-badgers will target whether the rabies virus can be passed down through vertical infection, said Chen.

The results of these experiments will allow experts to adjust the amount of rabies vaccinations in order to better prevent the virus, Chen said.

All the experts who will participate in the experiments are professional veterinarians, so people do not have to worry that the animals will be mistreated, Chen said.

Since the first rabies case in decades was discovered in early July, 94 ferret-badgers and one house shrew have been confirmed as having carried the virus. The government is continuing to provide free vaccines to Chiayi and Taitung counties, targeting pet dogs and cats in mountainous areas. More than 2.27 million more doses of the vaccine will be imported by September.

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