Bhutan observes World Rabies Day

Phuentsholing, 28 September: As Chukha dzongkhag especially Phuentsholing and Pasakha areas are endemic to Rabies with increasing cases in livestock and human deaths being reported, this year, Bhutan observed World Rabies Day (WRD) in these areas particularly to strengthen the awareness on rabies.

The program was organized at two locations such as at Phuentsholing Higher Secondary School and Alley Middle secondary School through talk show which was attended by more than one thousand participants including students, teachers, agency representative and public along. There was a presentation by exerts from livestock and health offices on rabies highlighting information such as its history, advances, symptoms, prevention measures, risk both in case of human and animals; issues, roles of communities etc. They were also informed about one health initiatives to bring all the stakeholders in close collaboration and community based approach and participation for controlling and preventing Rabies both in human and animals. This was followed by a question and answer session where participants clear their rabies related doubts.

A street show on rabies was also organised at Children Park, Phuentsholing in the afternoon, which attracted around 2500 nos. of audiences. The show acted by renowned Bhutanese comedians and singers included various awareness messages such as rabies is preventable but not curable, 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 along with what to do when bitten by suspected  dogs and cats.

In addition, free registrations and vaccination cum treatment in four locations were also organised. The technical team treated around fifty-four nos. of pet dogs on the day; the recent HSI campaign had already done vaccination for more than 900 pet animals.

According to Dr. Basant Sharma from the Regional Livestock Development Centre (RLDC)-Tsimasham, rabies, a fatal and neglected zoonotic disease is mainly prevalent in the southern parts of the country which shares the border with India, causing deaths of both human and livestock. He added that re-emergence of rabies in dogs and subsequent spill-over to other domestic animals have been also reported in the east and south-west of Bhutan.

The report from RLDC states that fifty-nine of the 205 geogs have reported rabies in animals during 1996 to 2009 with increased incidences in Sarpang, Chukha, Samtse and Samdrup Jongkhar. It also states that between January 1996 and 31 July 2012, a total of 814 domestic animals have died due to rabies resulting a significant economic losses for the farmers. Further, a total of 15 human rabies deaths have been also reported between January 2006 and July 2011.

As a part of the rabies control programs, the Department of Livestock and Humane Society International Organization (HSI) has successfully completed the first phase (September 2009 to 30 June 2012) of the Nation-wide dog population and rabies control program by neutering and vaccinating over 38,535 domestic dogs, covering 73% of the estimated 50,000 dogs in the country. The second phase was launched on 2August 2012 and will be continued till 2015 covering rest of the dog population.

Bhutan has been celebrating WRD since 2007 along with the world organising various awareness campaign across the country to prevent and making itself a rabies free country. Such programs has proved to be a huge success helping people to understand about the 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.

This year event was organized by the RLDC-Tsimasham in collaboration with the Phuentsholing Thromdoe and Drungkhag with fund support from RGoB.

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


             -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

How to avoid dog bites:

ü  Do not play with stray dogs or cats

ü  Never disturb a dog who is:

ü  Eating

ü  Sleeping

ü  Caring for puppies

ü  Do not:

ü  Look a dog straight in the eye

ü  Throw anything at a dog

ü  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

By Tshering Doma with contributions from Dr. Basant Sharma, RLDC-Tsimasham

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