Two people in the city of Beijing died of rabies in January 2013, the Beijing Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention has announced on Tuesday, 5 February 2013.
One of them was bitten by a stray dog on the finger; the other was bitten on the finger by a pet dog. Neither person was vaccinated after the injuries.
Most rabies cases in Beijing involve adult males who are farmers or migrant workers. Half of the people who caught rabies were bitten by stray dogs, and most were not vaccinated.
[ProMED note: Travelers to Beijing should be aware that canine rabies, despite rigorous control measures implemented by the local authorities, remains prevalent in the Chinese capital. Anyone injured in an encounter with a stray dog should seek immediate post-exposure prophylaxis.]
A total of 13 Beijing residents have died of rabies in 2012, more than double the number of deaths in 2011. Experts have attributed the increase in deaths to a lack of an effective vaccination program in the capital. Of the 13 victims, most were bitten by pet dogs rather than strays, the Beijing Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on 10 December 2012. Only five people died of rabies in 2011, the CDC said.
In 12 of the 13 cases, the victims did not seek vaccination after they were bitten, and the 13th victim died before he finished the entire course of vaccinations. A CDC official said rabies often occurs within three months after being bitten, and no one can survive the disease. A consultant from Beijing Kennel Club said that if dog owners are bitten, even by a vaccinated pet, residents should still seek medical attention for further vaccination. The consultant stated that: “Dogs will be vaccinated for free if they are registered at the police station, but some owners evade this as it costs 1,000 yuan (USD 160),” said Xu. “We’ve appealed for residents to get their dogs registered for years, but achieved little,” he noted.
Mary Peng, Director of the Beijing-based International Center for Veterinary Services, said dog vaccine coverage in the US is around 80%, but in China up-take is only 20%. “The Chinese government only permits licensed veterinary hospitals to import vaccine, which has proven effective in protecting dogs from rabies,” Peng said.
Beijing is considering a free compulsory vaccine program for pet dogs in the future, and also a system penalizing residents who fail to vaccinate their pets.
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Rabies has claimed the lives of 74 people in the northern mountainous provinces as of 19 October in 2012 , but only 83% of deaths were reported. According to the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, after five straight years of reductions, the number of rabies cases rose sharply in 2012, spreading across the northern mountainous region.
Up to 96% of rabies cases in humans can be traced back to unvaccinated dogs, while public awareness of rabies and its preventive measures remains low.