With the report of five human rabies deaths in the past three months in Baoshan City in China’s southwestern Yunnan province, government officials ordered the cull of some 4,900 dogs in an effort to stem the outbreak.
The municipal government of Baoshan issued an urgent notice urging authorities to control the animals and cull stray dogs. In addition, some 100,000 dogs were vaccinated against rabies.
This is not an unknown occurrence in China as the various local governments have ordered culls of stray dogs in the past. The Associated Press reports that in 2009, authorities in the northern city of Hanzhong reportedly killed about 37,000 dogs after a rabies outbreak, including clubbing some of the animals to death.
Rabies is an acute viral infection that is transmitted to humans or other mammals usually through the saliva from a bite of an infected animal. According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes, bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likely suspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to that of many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation (increase in saliva), difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of these symptoms.