HCM CITY (VNS) — With the onset of hot weather, the country faces a high risk of rabies though this year the number of fatalities has come down by almost half to 22, according to the Preventive Medicine Department.
Of the deaths this year, 19 occurred in northern Viet Nam, with the others concentrated in the central region.
Last year, 99 of the 261,000 people who were bitten died.
Figures from the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology show that Viet Nam edged closer to eradicating rabies deaths in 2003 when the figure declined to 34 deaths, down from 410 in 1995. However, the number of deaths has since surged, jumping to 131 in 2007, 110 in 2011, and 98 in 2012.
Tran Dac Phu, the department's head, said rabies claims the most lives of any infectious disease in the country, killing on average100 people per year. More than 90 per cent of rabies cases had been linked to dogs, he said, warning that unvaccinated dogs were spreading the disease.
He explained that most of the fatalities were occurring in northern provinces and cities due to the low rate of animal vaccinations.
Last year, only 46 per cent of pet animals had been vaccinated against rabies.
Nguyen Trung Cap, deputy head of emergency at the Ha Noi-based National Hospital for Tropical Diseases, said most rabies-infected people were being brought in for treatment late, after contracting the disease.
People who are bitten on the face or neck should get the vaccine within 12 hours, he added.
Associate Professor Dr Tran Nhu Duong, deputy head of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, warned that the hot and humid conditions between May and August would be conducive to the development of the virus.
Rabid dogs were visibly more aggressive and more eager to bite people than normal dogs, he said.
The high risk of a rabies outbreak was also being aided by people allowing their pets to wander outside their homes un-muzzled, heightening the risk of the disease spreading among cats and humans, he said.
If bitten by a dog or a cat, people should use water or soap to clean the wound, decontaminate it with 45-70 per cent alcohol, and go to the nearest health centre to receive the vaccination, he added. — VNS