At the time of writing, Thailand is throwing all its resources at attempts to contain the spread of the deadly rabies virus which has reportedly had a spike in cases recently. Since the beginning of 2018, there have been 400 confirmed cases of rabies in animals in Thailand, the Department of Livestock Development (DLD) has announced. That's double the number of recorded incidents over the same period in 2017.
Dogs account for a largest number of rabies carriers in Thailand, followed by cows & cats. Many who have visited Thailand before will be well aware of the stray 'soi dog' problem in the country which is mostly attributed to the strongly held Buddhist beliefs including the reluctance to euthanize pets in Thailand, which you can read about in a previous article entitled 'Why You Can't Euthanize Your Pet In Thailand'
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has recommended that visitors remain vigilant & stay away from all animals & take precautions to be safe when around them. The last recorded death from rabies occurred in Hua Hin, 14 years ago. Unfortunately, once again the tourist district of Hua Hin has been impacted & has now been declared a red rabies zone after an elderly man was found to have died from Rabies after being infected by a cat bite.
Dr Surin Suebsueng, health chief of Prachuap Khiri Khan, said a 61-year-old man was bitten by a cat two months ago & had not sought vaccination afterwards. He died at Hua Hin Hospital on Wednesday night. Samples of the dead man's hair, saliva, faeces & spinal fluid were tested & results were known on Thursday evening, it was confirmed he had been infected with rabies.
Health officials in Hua Hin were mobilised to find people who had contact with the cat, which had since died in the past two months so they could be vaccinated. An epidemic zone is declared when a disease is transmitted from animal to human & causes death - in this case rabies.
Source/Credit: The Nation
So far this year, the virus has been detected in 40 provinces including the popular tourist areas of Bangkok & Chiang Rai with three infected people killed this year. Late last week The Department of Livestock Development announced that rabies epidemic zone declarations remain in force in areas of the following 24 provinces.
- Chiang Rai,
- Chon Buri,
- Khon Kaen,
- Nakhon Ratchasima,
- Nakhon Si Thammarat,
- Prachin Buri,
- Prachuap Khiri Khan,
- Samut Prakan,
- Si Sa Ket,
- Surat Thani,
- Ubon Ratchathani
Authorities are doing what they can to contain the outbreak & state the outbreak is 'under control'. The Government aim to vaccinate 10 million dogs & cats by September 2018. Even as I write this article from my apartment in Patong, a vehicle is driving by pumping out a safety announcement regarding Rabies & the importance of vaccinating your pet.
Council vehicle in Patong
What Is Rabies?
Rabies is a viral disease which causes inflammation of the brain in humans and other mammals. Rabies is defined as a potentially fatal, preventable viral disease which causes acute encephalitis in warm-blooded animals. The Rabies Virus is passed on to humans from infected animals & is almost always fatal to those who contract the virus.
Which Animals Carry The Rabies Virus?
Warm-blooded animals carrying the Rabies Virus include:
Dog infected with rabies. Image Source/Credit: ABC News
How Are Humans Infected With The Rabies Virus?
The virus is usually present in the saliva of a symptomatic rabid animal. The route of infection is usually, & in most cases (but not always) by a bite. Transmission can also occur as a result of saliva from rabid animals coming into direct contact with fresh cuts or wounds on humans. The only way to prevent rabies (other than vaccination) is to avoid being bitten, scratched, or licked by any infected animal.
Signs & Symptoms Of Rabies In Humans
While the incubation period can be as little as 4 days in duration, the location of the wound together with the severity & amount of virus introduced can play a part in determining the length of the incubation period. The initial symptoms of Rabies may include a tingling sensation at the site of the infection, which progresses to cerebral dysfunction including confusion, agitation, anxiety, restlessness & excessive salivation. Unfortunately, once these symptoms are present in the victim, survival is rare. Death occurs anywhere from 2 to 10 days after becoming infected.
Post Exposure Treatments
1: Immediately flush out & wash the wound for at least a period of five minutes using soap & water, following which an antiseptic should be applied.
2: If possible, observe the animal suspected of carrying rabies, (the normal practice when bitten by a dog for example) for at least 10 days.
3: Consult a doctor immediately upon being bitten.
4: Take a full course of vaccinations, even if you are no longer in Thailand.
How Rabies Is Prevented?
Vaccinating pets against rabies is recommended by veterinarians in countries which have the rabies virus. This should be done each & every year. People can avoid being bitten by observing the following five rules of engagement with animals.
- Don’t provoke the animal at any time, especially when it is eating;
- Don’t tease or incite an animal into panic, or into a defensive mode.
- Don’t attempt to separate animals while they are fighting;
- Don’t remove an animal’s food while it is feeding;
- Don’t engage in any form whatsover with a soi dog or stray animal.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA
The following resources are available to obtain more information.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA: Health Information for Travelers to Thailand
The Department of Disease Control Thailand Rabies Fact Sheet
The World Health Organization: Fact Sheet on Rabies
Thai Travel Clinic, Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Tropical Medicine. What should I do if I am bitten by a dog? & Rabies vaccine in Southeast Asia. Is it necessary?