Vaccination has become the primary approach in a rabies control program on Flores and Lembata islands, East Nusa Tenggara [NTT].
Supported by the Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] and World Animal Protection [WAP], vaccination is considered a humane way to prevent the spread of rabies in dogs and its potential transmission to humans.
To control rabies on Flores and Lembata, the Agriculture Ministry’s animal health directorate and the FAO’s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases [ECTAD] Indonesia held a dog vaccination program from Sept. 1, 2013 to Aug. 31, 2016.
Funded by WAP, the vaccination program took place in nine regencies on Flores and Lembata islands, namely East Flores, East Manggarai, Ende, Lembata, Manggarai, Nagekeo, Ngada, Sikka and West Manggarai.
Local administrations and Catholic churches in the areas supported the program. The US$650,000 program aimed to strengthen the capacity of the Indonesian government in controlling rabies effectively and in a more humane way.
The area’s first rabies case was discovered in Larantuka, East Flores regency, in 1997. The first human death caused by rabies-infected dog bites occurred in March 1998. Up until the middle of 2016, more than 200 people had died of rabies on Flores and Lembata. From year to year, rabies cases on Flores and Lembata islands have continued to decline, thanks to the dog vaccination program. In 2015, the number of rabies cases in dogs was 14, down from 24 cases in the previous year.
Meanwhile, there were three cases of rabies-infected dogs biting people in 2015, down from five cases in the previous year. According to FAO Indonesia data, 166,963 out of a total of 253,000 dogs in 946 of around 1,600 villages across Flores and Lembata were vaccinated in 2014, while during the second mass vaccination in 2015, 250,865 out of a total of 368,869 dogs in 1,316 villages were vaccinated.
FAO Indonesia health and zoonosis control national technical adviser Andri Jatikusumah said it was expected that 300,000 of an estimated 400,000 dogs from 1,600 villages on Flores and Lembata would be vaccinated in 2016. [ebf]