XI'AN: The rabies virus has killed 12 men and women in Hanzhong, Shaanxi province, where more than 36,000 dogs have been killed in a campaign to eradicate the disease.
Meanwhile, a man is receiving medical treatment after also becoming infected with the virus, which attacks the nervous system and can be transmitted through the saliva of animals.
Four people have died so far this month. This follows the deaths of 3 people in May, 3 people in April and two in March.
Five were farmers from Hanzhong's Chenggu county, four people were from Yangxian county, two were from Xixiang county and one was from Nanzheng county.
"The monitoring data showed that the danger caused by the dogs which carried rabies virus has increased and epidemic prevention and control is urgent," said Xing Tianhu, deputy mayor of Hanzhong municipal government.
Peter Williams, China director for the World Society for the Protection of Animals, said the organization was deeply concerned by the mass killing, which included both pet and stray dogs.
"Indiscriminate culling has been proven to be ineffective for both controlling dog population and preventing rabies," Williams said.
"The mass removal of dogs can result in the increased movement of dogs of unknown disease status from surrounding areas, thereby actually facilitating disease transmission and increasing the threat to human and animal health."
Before the mass killing, there were about 382,200 dogs, of which some 34 percent were pets, according to local statistics.
About 349,000 dogs, or 90 per cent, had been vaccinated since March, said Yang Jian, deputy director of Hanzhong agricultural administration bureau.
"In order to better control the epidemic, 36,400 dogs with the rabies virus and stray dogs have been killed and 11 dog markets were closed," Yang said.
About 7,058 people injured by dogs have been vaccinated against the disease since March.
The Hanzhong rabies control commanding office said that 6,469 people had reported being bitten or scratched by dogs since late May.
Yang said that spring was the peak rabies season and that the increasing population of stray dogs and pets helped the disease to spread.
"We will further enhance the management and registration systems for all dogs kept by local residents and continue to kill the wild and stray dogs. We have also drafted a dog management regulation and will issue later," deputy mayor Xing said.
Williams said that WSPA wanted "a comprehensive and humane strategy" with a focus on mass rabies vaccination to prevent and eventually eradicate the spread of rabies.