Bali grapples with rabies threat | Connect Asia

Bali grapples with rabies threat

Bali grapples with rabies threat

Posted 2 December 2011, 14:46 AEDT

Researchers say they are shocked that around 130 people have died on the Indonesian island of Bali from rabid dog bites in the last two and a half years.

Australian and Indonesian researchers worked together to investigate rabies data from health centres across Bali since the 2008 outbreak of rabies.

They found the virus is re-occurring in areas where it was once controlled.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Dr Rama Jayaraj, researcher at Australia's Charles Darwin University

JAYARAJ: 130 people, Balinese people died due to the rabid dog bite, and this data, it's retrospective data starting from November 2008 to November 2011.

LAM: Well before we look a little bit further about the general problem, can you just first of all tell us from a medical point of view what exactly happens to a person when he's bitten by a rabid dog?

JAYARAJ: Ok when any person is bitten by a rabid dog, it's depending upon which location, which site it's bitten by a dog. If it's bitten in the legs, the virus is transmitted through the peripheral nerve, it reaches the central nervous system and the brain, and it takes a longer period of time, that's called incubation period from the date of the bite to date of the death. So the incubation period, or the date of the symptoms revealed, so it's causes febrile convulsions, fever and also hydrophobia and a lot of nervous systems and encephalitis and coma, finally death. So a maximum period of death between two and a half months to three months period of time.

LAM: So how dangerous it is when you're bitten by a rabid dog, the threat to your health is dependent on where you're bitten. So which is the most dangerous part of your body if you were to be bitten by a rabid dog?

JAYARAJ: Face.

LAM: The face?

JAYARAJ: Yes.

LAM: And presumably this is where children get bitten?

JAYARAJ: That's true. And our data is showing the age group starting from five years old to 85.

LAM: Why is rabies such a huge problem still in Bali do you think?

JAYARAJ: Ok there is a reason here, 700 (sic) Australians are visiting Bali and Indonesia every year, and a high mobility of the population, increasing the population density and the dogs. Five-hundred-thousand dogs in Bali are community owned, most of them are stray dogs, not vaccinated, and failure to maintain the rabies control program in Bali. Only certain areas, like Sanur, Seminyak and Kuta and Denpasar, they are implementing this program currently, but not many rural and remote areas of Bali.

LAM: So Dr Rama tell us about your research data, what are you planning to do with it?

JAYARAJ: I'm working with Professor Wayan Batan, and he is working in Udyana University, and also Dr Abdul Azis. We are collecting dead victims data from each health centre, so there has been started ... and after seeing the results are really short, it's 130 numbers and they are all rural people, and they reason they are not aware of the prophylactic vaccines. So post-exposure prophylactic vaccine and rabies immune globulin. So it's quite expensive, it's not available for the poor people living there, and they are all living in poverty and it's pretty hard to afford them, and they are not aware of the rabies.

LAM: And of course the fact that they are in a rural area makes the hospital a long way away, doesn't it?

JAYARAJ: Yes, that's one of the reasons, yes. And even if they go to the hospital, the availability of the vaccine in Bali is very limited.

LAM: Are the local authorities doing anything about this problem?

JAYARAJ: Not much, not much at this point.

LAM: And is there any kind of collaborative effort between Australia and the Balinese to help resolve this problem, even if the local authorities are not doing anything?

JAYARAJ: ... I'm exploring the options, yes, so is there anyway, can we get the funding to support vaccine program for dogs and giving them, it's quite expensive the human rabies immune globulin, it's quite an expensive vaccine, it's around 41 to 61 dollars per dose. And I'm just wondering maybe approaching some philanthropic funding agencies to support this sort of activity.

LAM: And just very briefly Dr Rama, are there instances of rabies here in Australia?

JAYARAJ: No.

LAM: No, so we're totally clear?

JAYARAJ: Yes.

Contact the studio

Got something to say about what you're hearing on the radio right now?

Text/SMS
Send your texts to +61 427 72 72 72

Tweets
Add the hashtag #raonair to add your tweets to the conversation.

Email
Email us your thoughts on an issue. Messages may be used on air.