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COA to reconsider rabies experiments after rabid dog dies

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Council of Agriculture (COA) yesterday said that rabies experiments planned to be carried out on live dogs will be reconsidered in response to the first canine case of the virus and after some experts suggested that bats could be the original carriers.

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) has confirmed that a 1-month-old pet dog in Taitung County was euthanized on Sunday after contracting rabies. Also recently, wild animal experts have theorized that ferret-badgers could be being infected with the virus by wild bats.

The experiments were designed to determine whether dogs could be infected with rabies through a bite by a rabid ferret-badger.

COA Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基) said that the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) and Animal Health Research Institute (AHRI) will review their animal monitoring systems in light of the developments.

“The COA will invite experts to discuss whether it is still necessary to conduct rabies experiments on dogs,” Chen said.

“Pet owners should not bring animals that have not received vaccinations outdoors or in contact with wild animals, and pets should not enter any forest recreation centers.”

The CECC said that the death of the dog from rabies has been reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health and that people in Taiwan should try to avoid coming into contact with stray animals.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said that vaccinations have been given to over 90 percent of cats and dogs in areas where the rabies virus has been detected, which should help with rabies prevention.

According to the COA, the 1-month-old pet dog was bitten on Aug. 14, probably by a rabid Formosan ferret-badger. Its owner took it to the Taitung County Animal Quarantine the following day for observation.

The COA said that the dog was euthanized after its condition worsened to the point that it was too weak to stand. An autopsy confirmed that the animal had contracted rabies.

Despite the case, the rabies outbreak in Taiwan is still under control, the COA said.

First Human Rabies Infection may be Soon: Expert

National Taiwan University veterinary medicine professor Yeh Lih-seng (葉力森) said yesterday that the first case of a person being infected with rabies is likely not far away.

Yeh said that the government's weekly press conferences have not been very constructive in rabies prevention. Furthermore, Yeh said, the first case of a dog being infected means that authorities should enforce new measures to prevent rabies spreading to other species.

“People have been slacking off in rabies prevention recently,” Yeh said.

“In these kind of circumstances, the first case of a person being infected with rabies is likely to happen soon.”

Yeh added that the government should continue to strictly enforce anti-rabies measures and should draw up a timetable for the implementation of new measures.

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