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Taiwan informs OIE of 3 confirmed rabies cases

2013/07/18 21:19:24

Taipei, July 18 (CNA) Taiwan has informed the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) of its three confirmed cases of rabies in wild Formosan ferret-badgers, the Council of Agriculture said Thursday.

Chang Su-san, director of the council's Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine, said the OIE was informed Wednesday that two cases of rabies were found in central Taiwan's Nantou County and one in Yunlin County.

Chang said that if no domestic or imported cases of rabies are found in Taiwan over a period of two years, Taiwan will be able to seek OIE listing again as a rabies-free country.

Meanwhile, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has informed Taiwan that the United States will not change its regulations on the importation of dogs and cats from Taiwan, although Taiwan has now been listed as a rabies-infected area for the first time in 52 years, according to Chang.

There is still no quarantine for pets arriving in the U.S. from Taiwan, according to the AIT, which represents U.S. interests in Taiwan in the absence of diplomatic ties.

The U.S.' decision means that adoption programs for disabled cats and dogs from Taiwan will not be affected.

But Japan, a rabies free country, now requires a valid rabies vaccination certificate for dogs and cats from Taiwan three months prior to entry.

Animal rights activists said most of the cats and dogs exported from Taiwan are usually sent to the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Germany, and that Japan's change of regulations will hardly affect Taiwan's overseas pet adoption program.

It remains to be seen whether other countries will maintain their importation policy on cats and dogs from Taiwan, the activists said.

Currently, only 10 countries in the world are listed as rabies-free, namely Japan, Singapore, Iceland, New Zealand, the U.K., Sweden, Norway (except Svalbard Islands), Australia, Hawaii, and Guam.

Also on Thursday, Chen Pei-chung, deputy director-general of the Taiwan Veterinary Medical Association, said the fact that the three cases of rabies were spread out in the counties of Nantou and Yunlin is a worrisome sign that the disease may be spreading.

He said the 400 doses of rabies vaccines for human use currently in store at the Department of Health are far from enough for Taiwan's 40,000-50,000 veterinarians, animal quarantine officials, and pet beauty parlor workers.

He urged the government to import an adequate supply of vaccines as soon as possible.

Chou Jih-haw, deputy director-general of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said the CDC has asked for emergency shipments of rabies vaccines and that 1,000 doses for human use will be available by the end of August.

Chang said the relevant organizations in Yunlin and Nantou counties will be given priority for the inoculation of dogs. They will receive a total of 12,000 doses in the next few days, and by the end of August, 610,000 doses will be available for dogs nationwide, he said.

But Fei Chang-yong, a professor at National Taiwan University's School of Veterinary Medicine, said it will take at least 20 to 30 years before the ferret badger-associated rabies in Taiwan can develop into canine rabies.

(By Chen Shun-hsieh, Yang Shu-ming and Ann Chen)