Bhutan observes the 11th World Rabies Day

A Veterinary Officer treating one of the dogs at the National Animal Hospital
A Veterinary Officer treating one of the dogs at the National Animal Hospital

September 28: Bhutan joins the rest of the world to observe the 11th World Rabies Day with a theme “Zero human deaths from canine rabies by 2030”. Starting today, Bhutan will observe the National Rabies Week until October 3.

To mark the day,  a series of awareness programs will be held to educate the public, students and communities in the rabies endemic areas. A presentation highlighitng the importance of rabies including its control and preventive measures will be shared to the students. A documnetary and talk on Rabies will be also aired on national and local televisons and radio to sensitise the public on rabies. In addition, the Dzongkhags will organise a free rabies vaccination for dogs and cats along with distribution of brochures on responsible pet ownership, how to avoid dog bites and facts on rabies.

A consultation meeting is also underay in Paro from September 27-29 September with participants from livestock and health to assess the country’s rabies control program using a stepwise approach towards rabies elimination and develop strategic plan of action to make Bhutan rabies free country by 2025.

Rabies is a fatal and neglected zoonotic disease; it is preventable but not curable. According to the National Centre for Animal Health, an annual average of 17 outbreaks has been occurring in animals, mostly in southern parts of the country. In the two past years, the outbreak was reported in Orong, Samdrup Jongkhar (2015-16) and in Trashigang under Merak, Sakteng, Radi, Shongphu, Bidung and Samkhar with recent outbreak report in Ngangla, Zhemgang in September 2017.

Such outbreaks result in huge economic cost to the farmers and the government in terms of death of farm animals, containment cost and post exposure treatment cost in human. Nevertheless, Bhutan has been able to achieve substantial reduction of human rabies death over the years with only two deaths reported between 2012 and 2017 through implementation of various strategies from health and livestock sectors.

According to records, the nation-wide dog population and rabies control programs by neutering and vaccinating dogs has proved to be a huge success helping people to understand about rabies and its risk while also attracting support from them and stakeholders during outbreaks. This has also helped to reduce rabies cases in the country.

Considering the rabies risk, the livestock officials encourages everyone to register pet animals and vaccinate them against rabies in the nearest livestock office, report rabies outbreak and not to fed food wastes to stray animals.

How to avoid dog bites:

  • Do not play with stray dogs or cats
  • Never disturb a dog who is:
    • Eating
    • Sleeping
    • Caring for puppies
  • Do not:
    • Look a dog straight in the eye
    • Throw anything at a dog
  • Run near dogs
    • If a growling dog comes near you, stand still with your arms down, pretend you are a tree
    • Do not run away from the aggressive dogs 

What you should do if you are bitten by animals:

  • Wash the animal bite wound immediately using soap and water for 10 to 15 minutes
    • soap and water will kill the virus
    • will also remove much part of the virus from the wound
    • apply antiseptic into the wound
  • Report to your parents or elders
  • Report immediately to the nearest health centres and hospital for treatment
  • Also vaccinate your dogs and cats against rabies every year
    • Vaccination is the only way to prevent rabies cases in animals and humans
    • If enough animals are vaccinated, rabies can be eliminated
  • Report any rabies outbreak or suspected cases to the nearest livestock centre
  • Do not allow to mix your pets with strays
  • Never adopt wild animals or bring them into your home


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