UBUD, Bali, Indonesia–Vaccinating 210,000 dogs in the six months ending on March 31, 2011, the Bali Animal Welfare Association achieved a 48% reduction in human rabies deaths and a 45% decrease in dog rabies cases. This was the fastest containment of a rabies outbreak in the history of Indonesia, achieved even as a 13-year-old outbreak continues in Flores, where officials have fought rabies mainly by culling dogs.
During the six-month vaccination sweep, BAWA established by counting dogs from house to house in every village that the Bali dog population is “just over 300,000 dogs, about 1 dog to 12.5 people,” BAWA founder Janice Girardi said–exactly the estimate produced by ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton in late 2008 when the rabies outbreak was first recognized. Government estimates were half again to twice as high.
A Flores cab driver, his girlfriend, and their unvaccinated dog moved to the Ungasan peninsula in southern Bali in approximately May 2008. Infected in Flores, the dog first displayed rabid symptoms in late June 2008. Three people were fatally bitten, including the cab driver, before the outbreak was detected, four months after the dog died.
As rabies occurred only on the Ungasan peninsula until early 2009, the outbreak could have been isolated and eradicated almost immediately through intensive vaccination. Instead Bali authorities for more than a year practiced only selective vaccination, culled as many as 150,000 dogs, and until mid-2009 actually prohibited vaccinating dogs outside of areas with active rabies cases. More than 150 human rabies deaths followed.
For more than a year BAWA showed the value of vaccinating dogs instead of culling by keeping rabies out of the densely populated Gianyar regency, before getting the okay to try to vaccinate at least 70% of the dogs in all eight Bali regencies.
“The first round of mass vaccinations was funded by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, the Australian government, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare,” said an April 5, 2011 WSPA news release “The program is also supported by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization.
Despite the success of the program, Girardi said she was not optimistic that BAWA would be allowed to continue.
“Everyone agrees that we must re-run a program, boost the dogs, and target all new puppies and pups that Balinese have brought in after their dogs were killed,” Girardi said. “So far half the regencies want our help and won’t go back to culling. Others want our help, but also want all dogs chained, caged, or killed, in which case we won’t help. From recent meetings it seems like they do not want BAWA to continue vaccinating. I only hope they continue with a robust vaccination program under FAO coordination,” Girardi finished.
(See also Bali animal welfare societies battle rabies outbreak,” http://wp.me/p4pKmM-lz; “U.S. issues rabies advisory for Bali visitors as control effort stumbles,” http://wp.me/p4pKmM-lv; and “Political foes close Bali Animal Welfare Association,” http://wp.me/p4pKmM-lD.)