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Pursued by Barking Dogs

Local Conference Gives Mixed Marks to Bali's Handling of the Rabies Epidemic.

(2/1/2010) Bali ongoing efforts to control the current outbreak of rabies on the island remain the target of widespread criticism from many corners. As reported by Kompas.com, the large amount of money spent is seen by many as out of sync with the modest results achieved to date. Chief objections cited by critics include an inadequate supply of vaccine for Bali's entire canine population; the short-term effectiveness of vaccines given, requiring four re-inoculations in a single year; and the seemingly ineffective way in which the culling of stray dogs in being carried out.

These were the topic raised by a group of communicable disease experts who convened at a conference organized by the Udayana University Alumni Association on Wednesday, January 27, 2010. That gathering included Indonesian disease experts together with animal disease experts from Australia, China and the U.S.A. and followed an earlier 2-day "closed door" meeting.

Helen Scott-Orr, a researcher from the Australia Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), told the conference that Rp. 22.2 billion (US$2.4 million) had been spent since Q4 of 2008 by the provincial and regional administration in Bali, including money from foreign donors such as the ACIAR. Despite these expenditures, rabies continues to spread across the island.

According to Scott-Orr, "in Bali we see that the money being spent continues to escalate, but the disease (rabies) is spreading to areas that were once rabies free."

The high rate of bites suffered by Bali residents from an estimated population of 420,000 dogs, both complicates the difficulty and heightens the cost of dealing with rabies. Through December 2010, there were an 16,680 dog bite cases, a number greater than he total of 16,000 dog bites recorded last year nation-wide (excluding Bali).Governor Pastika had publicly admitted that the provincial government, at one point, owed Rp. 7 billion (US$700,000) for anti-rabies vaccine.

Rabies has now been confirmed in seven regencies and municipalities in Bali with an estimated 30 fatalities now linked to the disease. At this point in time, only the regencies of Klungkung and Jembrana still claim to be rabies-free.

Late last year, rabies made its entry into the regency of Karangasem, located on Bali's eastern shores and home one of the weakest economies on the island. Since the first case was discovered in Karangasem there have been 1,748 dog bites cases resulting in 4 deaths in that regency.

The Year Ahead

Meanwhile, the National News Agency Antara reports that Bali's government has allocated an additional Rp. 16.07 billion (US$1.6 million) in 2010 to continue the fight against rabies.

According to a provincial government spokesman, these funds will be channeled through the regional animal husbandry and animal health office. That same spokesman said that the government remains committed to eradicating rabies in Bali by 2012. The efforts to eliminate the disease in 2010 will remain focused on two areas: vaccination of dogs and the culling of stray dogs.

According to government figures, some 170,962 dogs have been vaccinated against rabies in the current campaign while 49,000 dogs have been eliminated.