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Vietnam Sees Increase in Human Rabies Deaths Due to Low Pet Vaccination Rates

The landscape for dog ownership is changing throughout the country as Vietnam aims to reduce or even eliminate instances of dogs spreading rabies to humans.

Vietnam is home to roughly 7.7 million domesticated dogs (some estimates put it at more than eight million), and statistics suggest that only 2.9 million of them (41%) have received vaccinations. As a result, the number of rabies cases in humans who were bit by infected dogs has been steadily increasing over the past few years.

Last year rabies accounted for 91 human deaths. This number is up 17% from 2015 and up 38% from 2014, according to VOV. In the first nine months of 2017, 57 people have already died, most of whom lived in the northern provinces.

September 28, which is observed as World Rabies Day, also marks the death anniversary of Louis Pasteur, inventor of the rabies vaccination. This year’s theme was: “Zero Human Deaths from Dog-Transmitted Rabies by 2030.” However, only last year did the country establish a goal to eradicate the preventable disease by 2020.

During the World Rabies Day meeting held in northern Bac Giang province on Wednesday, Head of the Animal Health Department Dang Quang Tuan said that the low vaccination rate contributed to the number of deaths.

In addition to lack of vaccination, lack of education remains a considerable problem, especially in rural areas. Doctor Nguyen Trung Cap of the National Hospital for Tropical Diseases said that each year the hospital receives about ten rabies patients who’ve been bitten but refuse treatment, according to DTI. Instead of getting the vaccination, patients seek out “quacks” to prescribe “secret remedies.” He added that those seeking out these treatments were often hospitalized too late and therefore lost their lives.

The Animal Health Department is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). VOV went on to say that MARD intends to coordinate with the Ministry of Health to better implement prevention measures in the future and hopefully raise awareness between now and 2021.

Animals Asia reminds people: “In many developing countries like Vietnam, veterinary care is centered toward livestock and the concept of preventive care for dogs and cats is new.”

As more and more of the population begin to keep dogs as pets, regulations like Resolution 90, which makes it illegal for dogs to be either off-leash or without a muzzle, might be on the rise. Popular opinion varies, but with rabies-related death tolls increasing, finding amiable and effective solutions seems advantageous.

[Photo via People]

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