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Rabies cases rise dramatically
( 2003-11-25 09:23) (China Daily)

The number of rabies cases continues to increase nationwide, with 1,297 people dying from the illness this year through September, up 62.74 per cent over the same period last year, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

It is the fifth straight year to see a jump in the number of rabies cases throughout China.

These are the most recent figures showing the impact of the growing number of pets in the world's most populated country, which has long been ravaged by the infectious disease.

Experts from China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention are blaming the trend in pet ownership, the shaky quality of vaccinations, the public's weak awareness of vigilance and the low vaccination rate among the dogs as the major causes of the rapid rise in cases.

Stray dogs in rural areas also add to the risk of people getting bitten, experts say.

A serious, fatal disease that can be transmitted by dogs, cats, livestock and certain wild animals and birds, rabies infects thousands of people every year in China.

Rabies, called "mad dog disease" in China, has become the most dangerous infectious killer in the country, well surpassing diseases like the notorious SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), pulmonary tuberculosis, AIDS and anthrax, according to a report released earlier this year by the Ministry of Health.

The ministry's statistics show that only 854 deaths from rabies were reported in 2001 and the figure rose rapidly to 1,003 in 2002.

Some feared the toll might continue to rise this year since rabies outbreaks had ravaged provinces like Guangdong, Hainan, Hunan and Jiangsu this summer.

To further curb the spread of the disease, ministries of health, agriculture and public security established a joint supervisory team in September to inspect prevention and control measures in rabies-prone areas.

China has loosened restrictions on pets as more and more people have begun to keep dogs as pets or for security guards.

For example, Beijing's dog lovers have had restrictions on their pets relaxed and registration fees were lowered by the Beijing Municipal People's Congress when a new regulation on domestic dogs was issued on September 5.

However,another regulation put teeth into Beijing's dog rules that went into effect on October 15. It stated that every dog in this city must be immunized from the rabies virus by October 29, according to the Beijing Agriculture Administration.

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