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Expert says rabies still not under control and official statistics may be misleading

national September 28, 2018 01:00

By Pratch Rujivanarom
The Nation

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RABIES OUTBREAK in Thailand is far from being under control, a medical expert has warned, even though official statistics from the Livestock Development Department show a declining rate of rabies infection.



Prior to World Rabies Day today, Livestock Development Department director-general Sorawit Thaneeto yesterday said most rabies infection control goals had been met, while the number of rabies-positive cases in animals were also decreasing.

Taken together, the figures signified satisfactory progress in the government’s efforts to eradicate the disease, said Sorawit.

A joint operation between Livestock Development Department and Local Administration Department has since last October vaccinated 8.39 million dogs and cats nationwide, and has already surpassed this year’s goal of 8.24 million animals.

This marked good progress in disease control efforts, said Sorawit, adding that the number of provinces with continuing reports of rabies infections had been reduced to 20. The number of new rabies infections in animals was also decreasing, and the infection rate this month was below the same period of last year, he said.

New rabies-positive tests number 52 so far in September, according to infection monitoring by Livestock Development Department, or 12.99 per cent of samples tested. That compares favourably to 18.49 per cent from the first 27 days of last September.

Since January 1 until yesterday, a total 1,296 animals, or 15.3 per cent of 8,472 samples, were found to be infected.

The rabies infection monitoring system also reported that positive rabies cases were found in 54 out of 77 provinces of Thailand, with Surin having the highest disease prevalence.

The rabies outbreak was still active in Saraburi, Chonburi, Samut Prakan, Chaiyaphom, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, Yasothon, Surin, Amnart Chareon, Kalasin, Khon Kaen, Mukdahan, Roi Et, Nong Khai, Prachuap Khiri Khan, Phetchaburi, Samut Songkram, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ranong, and Songkhla provinces.

An infectious-disease expert said there were still reasons to be concerned. Rabies infections in local areas were not completely under control, said Dr Thiravat Hemachudha, head of the Emerging Infectious Disease Health Science Centre at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Medicine. 

His observations suggested the information from new cases in animals were ambiguous, he said.

This information matched with reports from local medical practitioners, who said they continued to face a high infection rate of rabies among stray animals.

Thiravat said that the infection-rate statistics provided by the authorities were misleading. The reduced number of cases of new rabies infections in animals was a result of a lower number of samples being sent to laboratories for testing, he said.

“I urge the Livestock Development Department to inform the public with accurate data and not try to hide the truth just to prevent public panic,” he said.

“We must face the reality in order to solve this problem.”

 

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