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Surge of rabies cases in China

29th September 2009

Rabies is one of China's biggest health threats and has recently spiked in number of occurrences, according to a Chinese government report and recent study.


The country comes second after India in a worldwide tally of deaths due to the disease.

The finding shows that the number of human rabies infections has leapt in some provinces in China since 2000.

The Chinese health ministry said that China is one of the countries most severely affected by rabies, and that the number of annual reported deaths from rabies has averaged around 2,400 in recent years.

The health ministry issued its statement about the importance of better defending against the disease on World Rabies Day.

Rabies is an infection of the nervous system that is spread by animal bites.

Most research on limiting the disease has focused on treatments that stop the progress of a the rabies infection altogether.

The Chinese research team said that the use of human and equine rabies immunoglobulins (HRIG/ERIG) has saved the lives of countless patients who would have died if treated with vaccine alone.

They said that, however, both products are often in short supply worldwide and are virtually unaffordable in developing countries.

Lu Jiahai of the School of Public Health at Sun Yat-Sen University in China, said that human rabies did not present as much of a problem between 1990 and 1996 due to nationwide rabies vaccination programmes.

He said that cases of human rabies have jumped high enough to trigger a warning sign for control and prevention since the end of the 1990s.

The research team obtained its data on human rabies from 22,527 cases reported by the Chinese Ministry of Health.

Between 1990 and 1996, only 159 rabies infections were reported to have occurred in China. In 2006 alone, the Chinese Ministry of Health reported 3,279 cases of rabies.

The southwestern and southern provinces of China were the most frequently affected by the disease. Rabies seemed to spread most often among dogs in highly populated areas of these provinces.

The researchers found that most cases of human rabies between 1990 and 2007 in China were due to dog bites on the heads or necks of teenagers and children.

Lu said that the four provinces in which rabies was endemic lacked strictly enforced measures to eliminate dog rabies or an ample supply of modern cell culture rabies vaccines for human beings.

The researchers said that the worst-affected province in China is Guangdong, where 62.5% of patients did not receive proper treatment for their wounds.

They said that 92.5% of people there did not receive adequate post-exposure vaccination and 91.25% did not receive any anti-rabies immunoglobulin.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 55,000 people die from rabies each year, most of whom live in Asia or Africa.

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Article Information

Title: Surge of rabies cases in China
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 12783
Date Added: 29th Sep 2009


China number two in world for rabies deaths: govt

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