|An ethnic H'Mong boy plays with a dog in Sa Pa Town, Lao Cai Province. There has been a sudden surge in the number of dog bites, which, according to health specialists, is due to hot weather. — Photo anninhthudo.vn
LAO CAI (VNS) — The northern mountainous province of Lao Cai has issued an alert against rabies from pet dogs and cats, after two people died of the disease during the ongoing heat wave.
The provincial preventive healthcare centre reported that during the heat wave, which began in late May, 152 people have so far come to health clinics across the province for post-exposure vaccinations against rabies.
Although the patients are of all ages, the majority of them are young.
In a short period of time, from June 4 to July 3, some 62 people had reportedly been injected with rabies vaccine following their exposure to dog or cat bites or scratches.
The two people who died of rabies from dogs were Cu A Sinh, 26, from Trung Chai Commune in Sa Pa District, and Ma A Hanh, 12, from Sa Pa Commune in the same district.
Because of the low awareness of the disease, they did not receive rabies vaccination even after their exposure to bites.
Health specialists have attributed the abrupt surge in the number of dog/cat bites to the harsh, prolonged hot spell.
They fear that as the heat wave hits many places across the country, more and more people will flock to Sa Pa, as the place sits high on mountains and is one of the most-visited tourist destinations in the country for its milder climate than other lower-lying areas. This might increase the risk of rabies spreading widely and quickly as many of the domestic tourists have the traditional habit of consuming dog and cat meat, which can drive a high demand for this type of food, and hence, a busier traffic of animals to this area.
Le Van Can, director of the Sa Pa District Healthcare Centre, is worried about the low awareness of rabies among locals, especially among ethnic minority groups who make up the majority of local population.
Can noted that of the people who came for the post-exposure vaccination last month, only 30 per cent completed all five doses (injections), while the remaining 70 per cent quit halfway.
Can guessed that one of the reasons why they quit in the middle of the vaccination could be that their homes were far from the centres that administered the vaccine, or they were too poor to afford additional injections, or they were simply not aware of the importance of completing all five doses.
Can said his centre has identified it as a new, challenging task for its staff to persuade such persons to complete the dosage of vaccination after their exposure to bites.
Ngo Xuan Canh, head of Sa Pa District Veterinary Station – a State-owned institution staffed by six workers at the district office and nearly 20 workers based in different communes (the lower administrative units of the district) talked about his station's efforts to thwart rabies among the dog and cat population in the area.
The station has fanned out all of its staff members to "hot spots" in the area, including densely-populated zones, villages by the side of roads, tourist destinations, including famous spots on the tour map such as Sa Pa Town, Ta Phin, Sa Pa, Ta Van, and Ban Ho, as well as areas that have reported rabies outbreaks.
In these areas, they aim to vaccinate 100 per cent of the domestic dog and cat population.
As of last Friday, 4,000 of 4,500 dogs were vaccinated. Dog owners have also been warned against letting their pets out on the street.
Meanwhile, in a bid to raise people's awareness of rabies, the district preventive healthcare centre has been working with the district television and radio station and authorities of communes in spreading messages concerning protective measures against rabies, such as going to a clinic immediately after being exposed to dog or cat bites and scratches; completing sufficient doses with correct phasing between injections; and not consuming the meat of dogs or cats that died of rabies. — VNS