The Australian reports that worries are growing that rabies, affecting Bali and other regions of Indonesia, will soon make the hop-skip-and-jump through the chain of Indonesian islands to the Australian mainland.
According to the report, the disease has already landed on the island of Larat, 600 kilometers north of Darwin, where 19 people died due to rabies in 2010.
Rabies is found in 24 of Indonesia’s 33 provinces.
A New South Wales veterinary officer, Dr. Scott Orr, underlined the growing sense of concern, saying: "If it gets into West Papua, it is strongly likely that it will spread slowly and inexorably down through the entire island of Papua New Guinea, in which case it would be extremely close to our borders across the Torres Strait."
A representative of the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry supported Dr. Orr’s comments, saying rabies outbreaks on the Indonesian islands of Flores, Bali, Pulau Larat and Ambon had increased the risk of the disease entering Australia.
Australian officials are particularly concerned that their long coastal border is prone to illegal importation of animal by boat.
Rabies is blamed for 55,000 deaths worldwide each year. Since the outbreak of the disease in 2008, 130 people in Bali have died from rabies. Officials in Bali have eliminated thousands of dogs and vaccinated an estimated 80% of the island’s dog population in an effort to make the island “rabies free” by 2015.
In order to be certified as “rabies free” a locale must be free of any new reported cases of rabies for a period of two consecutive years.
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