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News that Really Bites

Bali Officials Admit Bali Won’t be Rabies-Free before 2015

(12/22/2013) The Jakarta Post (Bali Daily) reports that Bali has pushed back its target for once again being rabies free from 2012 to 2015.

The reemergence of rabies cases in several areas of Bali in 2013 meant efforts to completely eradicate the disease have failed.

A human casualty in September 2013 has also called into question the effectiveness of the government’s free vaccine program intended to protect those living on the island from dying from rabies bites.

The September 2013 fatality was the first confirmed human case of rabies since the previous July.

Dr. Ketut Suarjaya, the head of the Bali Health Agency explained: “Bali can only declare itself rabies-free if there is no single case of rabies in humans or animals within a two-year period.”

Cases of rabies among Bali’s dog population are still reported in the regencies of Gianyar, Bangli and Buleleng.

Health authorities still report an average 100 dog bite reports per day, down from the average 130 reported each day in 2012.

The Bali Post states that the stock of anti-rabies vaccine (VAR) for humans bitten by animals suspected of rabies is currently very low.

Bali’s Sanglah General Hospital is reportedly out of VAR stock and only treating bite victims by cleaning their wounds. Patients, promised free VAR by the government, are now being told they must purchase life-saving and expensive VAR from a nearby drug store.

The lack of VAR at the at Sanglah General Hospital and Udayana University Hospital – two of Bali’s largest medical centers -  is happening at the same time that Dr. Ketut Suarjaya insists Bali still has a remaining stock of 9,000 vials of VAR.

Suarjaya also says an additional 41,00 vials of VAR will arrive in Bali before the New Year.

In the meantime, those bitten by stray dogs are told to wash their bite wounds, seek a supply of free VAR from a local health center that still holds a stock, try to observe the attack dog for two weeks to see if it shows signs of a rabies infection or purchase VAR from a commercial pharmacy.