Rabies protocols must be followed

FRIDAY, 16 OCT 2009 03:44AM

This letter is in response to the Sept. 28 letter to the editor titled, "Abolish rabid policy" by Joel Joseph Schiff.

I AM extremely disheartened to see that World Rabies Day was used as a way to further a personal vendetta of slander and paranoid rambling. I feel the trust of the people of Guam was betrayed. This day is intended to remind all of us of the seriousness of this global disease and to renew vigilance in the fight to eradicate it. Instead of facts and education, I open my paper to read a deliberate ploy to mislead the public through inaccurate and false information.

While there are some countries that are considered "rabies-free", they do not all follow the same protocol regarding rabies prevention. Australia uses limited vaccination, while Japan credits its rabies free status to its strict vaccination and quarantine protocols.

As noted in the Regulatory Systems for Prevention and Control of Rabies, Japan (Emer Infect Dis. September 2008): "Japan is one of the few rabies-free countries. Although three imported cases of human rabies were seen in 1970 and 2006, no other cases have been reported for over 50 years. The elimination of rabies in Japan is attributed to not only its geographical isolation but also to effective prevention and control measures, such as registration and vaccination of domestic dogs, requiring quarantine of susceptible imported animals, and national plans of action based on scientific research."

The reason that some "rabies-free" countries do not vaccinate, is not due to vaccination leading to false information as previously implied. In fact, the first rabies vaccines were not killed, but live viruses, and there was a fear that they may cause an outbreak of the disease. Modern rabies vaccines are killed viruses, so this risk is no longer a concern. As rabies spreads into more and more countries, these outdated policies will probably be changed.

All rabies-free countries have strict quarantine protocols, whether they vaccinate or not. The CDC states, "Despite evidence that control of dog rabies through programs of animal vaccinations and elimination of stray dogs can reduce the incidence of human rabies, exposure to rabid dogs is still the cause of over 90 percent of human exposures to rabies and 99 percent of human deaths worldwide."

It is imperative to remember that rabies is endemic in some of our neighboring communities such as the Philippines It could easily cross the border of Guam on a boat, through an infected animal, or even an infected person. Bali, a country considered "rabies-free" is now experiencing an outbreak of rabies, with as many as 12 human deaths so far. Bali is in a state of emergency, looking to Australia to help with the vaccination and/or euthanization of hundreds of dogs. Ireland, another "rabies-free" country has experienced a human death to rabies this year.

Guam, although "rabies-free," has an extremely transient population, with people coming from all over the world, adding to the potential of an accidental breach of the rabies virus. This is why the military and the government of Guam require rabies vaccinations and strict quarantine laws. In reality, Guam is not doing enough to protect against rabies. We need to enforce the registration and leash laws and take care of the stray dog populations that harbor many diseases. We cannot afford to be lax in our rabies protocols, and I encourage every person to take the initiative to obtain accurate information by doing research on this serious and fatal disease. Get the facts that are actually factual at cdc.gov and avma.org.

Dr Lisa Silk
Isla Veterinary Clinic