Some Translations of Local Media Reports
Following outbreaks across the country, Beijing gears up to fight rabies
Beijing Daily News, "Beijing sets up rabies rapid-response machanisms."
August 13, 2006. Beijing TV, "Girl dies of rabies; animals entering Beijing to have temperatures taken."
August 11, 2006. Xinhuanet, "Little pets cause big trouble; rabies outbreaks must be brought under control." August 9, 2006.
The Beijing Bureau of Agrculture announced that Beijing has established emergency response mechanisms to deal with the threat of rabies infections. In the event of a rabies outbreak, the city will be able to respond promptly using a variety of measures to control and contain infections. The next stage of the city's anti-rabies campaign will reportedly be to emphasize prevention of the disease. The Beijing Daily News reports that in addition to more strictly enforcing dog registration and immunization requirements, authorities will more closely oversee dog breeding conditions, establish outbreak reporting mechanisms, and institute body temperature checkpoints for all dogs and cats entering Beijing. Animals exhibiting fever or other abnormal symptoms will be placed in quarantine for observation and processing.
On August 9, a young Beijing woman died of rabies contracted from a dog bite, after treatment proved ineffective. The city experienced a rash of rabies deaths last August. A Shanghai resident also died of rabies recently. According to official infection statistics, 307 people were infected with rabies in July, of whom 237 died - making rabies the most lethal infectious disease recorded during the month of July.
The Ministry of Health recently announced that while there are no signs indicating that a rabies epidemic is likely, citizens should remain vigilant and informed about rabies prevention. Disease prevention and control is weakest in rural areas, where many dogs have not been vaccinated against rabies. MoH spokesman Mao Qun'an stated that rabies' high mortality rate - often occupying the top spot in reports of diseases' lethality - is primarily because of insufficient prevention awareness.
Rabies has been a serious problem in Yunnan and Shandong provinces over the last several months, leading to 19 deaths. Counties in both privinces recently led large-scale dog cullings; in Mouding county, Yunnan province alone, more than 50,000 dogs were ordered killed. The cullings are controversial, with opponents attacking the local governments' handling of rabies policy as barbaric, while supporters insist that the cullings were regrettable but necessary for the public good.
August 7, 2006 Reports:
The Chinese Ministry of Health's epidemiological figures for June show 198 rabies deaths throughout the country that month, making rabies China's deadliest infectious disease. As of August 3 of this year, 16 people had died of the disease in the small city of Jining in Shandong province alone; in Mouding county, Yunnan province, 360 people were bitten and wounded by dogs, and three died of rabies after treatment proved ineffective.
Human fatalities caused by sudden outbreaks of rabies led local governments in Mouding and Jining to order massive culls of dogs in the regions. Jining vice-mayor Chen Ying called the rabies outbreaks a serious threat to life, production, and social stability, and the city ordered the slaughtering of all dogs within a five-mile radius.
In Mouding, on the other side of the country, local officials ordered the extermination of over 50,000 dogs between July 25 and July 30. With the exception of police and military dogs, all dogs, including 4,000-plus that had been immunized against rabies, were killed. Some civilians resisted the command to kill the immunized dogs, but Mouding officials, citing unreliable vaccines and adding that the government was unable to diagnose which dogs had or had not been infected, insisted that all dogs in the county be culled.
Qin Xiaona, director of the Capital Animal Welfare Association, said that during trips to Japan and Thailand, she learned that the two countries' low incidences of rabies were due primarily to preventative measures taken against the disease. Qin says that dog cullings on too large a scale are apt to cause fear among the general population, and that only through 'scientific management' will local governments be able to avoid going to extremes. "The dogs that have been vaccinated should be examined; they shouldn't all get beaten to death. Even dogs that haven't been vaccinated shouldn't be exterminated...In a normal country, in a normal society, people should respond normally."
The Shenghuo Xin Bao reported that dog owners in Mouding were being paid five yuan - approximately sixty cents - in compensation for their dogs. According to the report, throughout the five-day culling period one could see dogs being beaten to death in the streets. Some were bludgeoned to death with poles by the 'dog-culling team;'some were hung, electrocuted, or euthanized by their owners. All pet and dog meat markets were shut down during this period, and restaurants were forbidden from selling any dishes containing dog meat.
Ms. Qin says that the bloodiness and cruelty of the dog cullings goes against the "harmonious society," the central government's latest strategy for maintaining social order. The problem, says Ms. Qin, is not merely of cruelty to dogs, but of cruelty to people. "Their owners especially. So many people now raise dogs as part of their family, their own family, their own children or grandchildren. [Making them] beat the dogs to death like this -- I don't think they'll ever be able to forget that for the rest of their lives."
A Beijing resident who asked to remain anonymous says that he can't blame the governments for their concern about rabies, but that he believed that their method of dealing with the problem could have been improved upon. "It seems like they didn't care whether or not their techniques were bloody or whether or not they were reasonable. This could have been more precise, less arbitrary. It was certainly dangerous, and there were certainly a lot of deaths from rabies, but I think this was the wrong way."
A report by the Hunan provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention at a conference on human and animal diseases in Beijing this year found a drastic increase in rabies infection and fatalities throughout China over the last several years. The report also quoted Dr. Xia Xianzhu as questioning the safety and efficacy of existing vaccines.
The People's Daily newspaper reported today that in the first half of 2006, nearly 70,000 Beijingers were bitten or scratched by dogs, cats, and other potentially rabies-infected animals. At the beginning of summer, clinics and emergency rooms all over Beijing saw a marked increase in human rabies immunizations; to date, there have been no reported fatalities from the disease -- and no order from the government to cull dogs.