Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rabies epidemic in Indonesia threatens Top End

Vets in the Top End warn an epidemic of rabies in Indonesia could have disastrous consequences if it reaches Australia, because of the large dog population in remote Indigenous communities.

The disease is highly infectious, has been a killer in parts of the developing world for decades, and is spreading quickly across the Indonesian archipelago.

It arrived on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali four years ago and is now on an island 600 kilometres north of Darwin.

"They tracked it back to a fisherman who brought his dog on a boat, and that dog had been incubating rabies," said Janice Girardi, director of the Bali Animal Welfare Association.

Ms Girardi says eliminating rabies is tough because it is so contagious and the most effective way of preventing the disease is through vaccinating all dogs.

Her organisation has already vaccinated close to 300,000 canines across Bali.

"Extensive studies have come up with the R0 number, the infectious number, to be under two, so one rabid dog will infect one and a half other dogs," she said.

"You put an unvaccinated population of dogs, you will see how quickly it spreads because every dog is infecting one and a half other dogs. Read More