In Beijing, 700 000 dogs have recently been vaccinated against rabies in order to combat the growing rabies epidemic there, and reduce the risks to people attending the 2008 Olympic games.

Unfortunately, rabies is common in China, with the number of cases increasing dramatically over the last decade.  In 1996, there were 163 humans deaths due to rabies. This number increased to 3380 in 2007.  Because of the seriousness of disease, the number of deaths and the low vaccination rate in dogs, a mandatory vaccination policy for dogs has been put in place. Free rabies vaccination is provided annually for each licensed dog. This could have a tremendous impact on the number of rabies cases, at least in certain regions. Control of rabies in rural areas is more problematic because of the lack of an organized registration and vaccination system for dogs in those areas. Perhaps not surprisingly, most cases of rabies occur in these rural regions.

So, the 2008 Beijing Olympics may have benefits for the dogs of China as well, or at least those in Beijing. This is certainly a preferred approach to the reports from last year of mass killing of thousands of dogs (including pets).  Let’s hope this progressive approach continues and the impact of this horrible disease decreases.

On a related note, the latest human death from rabies in Beijing was a person who was bitten by a stray dog two months before he became ill. He didn’t seek medical attention at the time of the bite, he just cleaned the wound himself.  If he had been treated for possible rabies exposure, he’d be alive today.  While rabies is uncommon in many areas, no bite from an animal should be taken lightly.  Rabies should always be considered and appropriate measures taken. More information about rabies is available in our Resources section.