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Indonesia, as one of the largest countries in the world, spreading over more than 5.000 kilometers from east to west and containing over 17.000 islands, is quite vulnerable for a number of disease. The health care system in general is not adequately equipped to deal with many basic situations, which should be a reason to get proper information about common diseases.

Endemic in large parts of Indonesia

A threat to both human and animal health, rabies is a rapidly progressing, deadly disease. It is almost always spread by an animal bite. Rabies can also be spread when a rabid animalís saliva gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin. The primary sources of human infection worldwide are dogs and certain wildlife species, such as foxes, raccoons, mongooses, and bats.

Each year throughout the world, rabies kills approximately 50,000 people, mostly children. The risk of rabies from domestic animals is lower for people in the United States. For people who travel to other parts of the world, the risk of rabies may be higher. Therefore, all travelers should know how to protect themselves from this disease.

Avoid touching all animals, including wild animals like monkeys and pets. Unlike pets in the United States, pet dogs and cats in other countries may not have been vaccinated against rabies.

Resist the urge to rescue animals with the intent to bring them home. Dogs and cats may be infected with rabies but not show signs until several days or weeks after you first encounter them.

Supervise children closely, especially around dogs, cats, and wildlife such as monkeys. This is important since children are more likely to be bitten by animals, may not report the bite, and may have more severe injuries from animal bites.

If you are traveling with your pet, supervise your pet closely and do not allow it to play with local animals, especially strays.

In case of a bite, wash the wound well with soap and water. See a doctor right away, even if you donít feel sick or your wound is not serious. To prevent rabies, you may need to start a series of vaccinations immediately.

To get vaccinated, be prepared to travel back home for proper medical assistance. After you return home, tell your doctor or state health department that you were bitten or scratched during travel.

Outbreak of rabies in Bali since November 2008

In December 2008 and January 2009, cases of rabies in dogs were reported in the Bandung and Denpasar districts in southern Bali. The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for South-East Asia has reported seven suspected fatal human rabies cases and one laboratory confirmed human rabies case in Bali since November 2008. All human cases had a history of a dog bite. In 2009, one fatal human case has been reported in Bali.

While rabies is endemic to much of Indonesia, previous to this outbreak, Bali was rabies-free. Frequent traffic of boats between the Indonesian islands is believed to be the most likely route of entry of rabies into Bali. Currently, suspected cases have only been reported in southern Bali. However, the disease has the potential to spread to the rest of the island.

The Indonesian authorities, supported by the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization, have implemented control measures. These include a dog vaccination campaign, culling of stray dogs, training of healthcare workers and laboratory staff, and a public awareness campaign.

All text in this article is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Last revised on October 11, 2009
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