The government is scrambling to counter the canine rabies epidemic that has swept Bali, amid 75 deaths and international warnings against travel to Indonesia’s famed tourism gem.
“We are targeting Bali to be rabies-free by 2012,” Health Ministry official Rita Kusriastuti said Friday in Jakarta.
The preferred method to reach that goal is by vaccinating the dogs, as opposed to killing them, said Rita, who is also the ministry’s director for zoonotic disease control.
“The population of dogs in Bali is 500,000 and 380,000 of them have been vaccinated. The Health Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry’s Husbandry Directorate General and relevant agencies in Bali will strive to vaccinate all dogs,” Rita said.
She added that there would be a new regulation to ensure that dogs cannot wander around freely in public.
Regulations for dogs in Indonesia are under the authority of the Agriculture Ministry’s veterinary division.
Seventy-five people are suspected to have died from rabies in Bali since November 2008, 35 of whom tested positively for the disease in post-mortem examinations.
An average of 125 people die from rabies each year in Indonesia, which is less than the 200-300 fatalities recorded in the Philippines, according to the Health Ministry.
Indonesia’s most recent rabies death was recorded last month, when a Buleleng resident died at Singaraja Regional Hospital.
The US and Australia have issued rabies-related travel advisories for their citizens who plan to visit Indonesia.
Rita said the Health Ministry has set up rabies centers to stop the spread of the disease.
“Officers at the centers should always be prepared with VAR, no matter how much is needed. We are doing this for Bali’s sake,” she said, referring to the anti-rabies vaccine.
The central government currently has 2,000 VAR doses, which are in high demand, Rita said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) provided the Bali administration with 250,000 doses of canine VAR last month.
Rabies has spread to 24 of the indonesia’s 33 provinces, according to ministry reports, which also stated Jakarta, Yogyakarta and West Nusa Tenggara were three of the country’s nine rabies-free provinces.
Rabies forced the declaration of an “extraordinary situation” (KLB) in Nias in February, where the disease has killed 23 people as of July, according to reports.
An extraordinary situation was also previously declared in Riau Islands in April.
Rita said that the immediate creation of the long-delayed Commission on Zoonotic Diseases would be “very helpful” in tackling the outbreaks.
Coordination between the Agriculture and Health Ministries at the central level has been conducted properly, she said, adding that the commission was needed to ensure smooth operation at the regional level.
Coordinating Public Welfare Ministry’s representative Emil Agustiono said that the ministries would “monitor the situation” regarding the diseases while ministerial talks on the commission’s establishment proceeds.