Ever wonder what it’s like to live in a country where rabies is endemic? I’ve often wondered, especially on those occasions when I’ve examined an animal with symptoms that could be compatible with rabies infection. Still, I always put rabies at the bottom of my differential, because there are almost never any cases reported in my corner of the world here in Quebec, in wild or domestic animals. The only exception would be bats, who appear to be a reservoir of rabies – approximately 3% of bats who are sent to the centralised Canadian lab for rabies testing do test positive, but that is still a very, very low number, and hardly a concern unless you ever come in contact with a dead or dying bat.
Reading my favourite veterinary blog today, Dolittler, I realised yet again that rabies is a deadly, dastardly disease.
In case the terrorist travel advisories haven’t spooked the visitors yet, here’s another blow to its tourist trade: Bali’s government is currently suppressing a seven month-long outbreak of rabies with a tried and true routine. It’s baiting stray dogs with strychnine-laced meatballs.
Come on, now, we all know that nothing works like a neurotoxin to help differentiate a rabid animal from a poisoned one, right?
I can just picture it: panicked Balinese pointing to one after another seizuring dog wondering how in the world rabies got to this point on their formerly unaffected island. Next thing you know they’re killing off their neighbors’ pets along with their own children’s dogs in a frenzied act of anti-rabies desperation.
Bali’s first human rabies cases hit the news last September. Since then, a total of eight people have reportedly succumbed. This, for an island nation with no former history of rabies––and little understanding of how their rabies-free status changed, seemingly overnight––is a hard pill to swallow.
I hope that veterinary organisations will step in to advise and act. It’s disturbing that in a country where so much has been invested in tourism, so little is being done to protect the health of animals and humans…