Disease: More than 500 dogs were registered and vaccinated against rabies in different locations in the capital on World Rabies Day yesterday. About 141 dogs were vaccinated at the National Animal Hospital in Chubachu alone.

Besides Thimphu, the Department of Livestock set up temporary vaccination centres in towns in Samdrupjongkhar, Gelephu, Phuentsholing, Samtse, Lhamoidzingkha, and Dewathang.

Chief veterinary officer, Dr Kinley Dorji, said that rabies was present in most parts of the country in 1980s. The disease was controlled through mass vaccination and restrictive elimination of dogs and there was no outbreak of the disease in the northern part of the country since 1986.

Thimphu had one case of rabies outbreak in 1992, after which not a single case was reported. The disease, he said is endemic in the southern part of the country.

Of a total of 329 rabies outbreak cases in the country since 1996, the highest outbreak (33) was reported in 2006, followed by 26 and 22 in 2008 and 2007 respectively.

About 21 rabies cases were reported in Chukha, Samtse, Sarpang and Samdrupjongkhar last year. The highest case was reported in Chukha. The cases of disease in domestic animals were due to bite by rabid dogs.

Rabies is a preventable disease but, once you get infected, it is fatal. The disease can affect all warm-blooded animals.

“If you are bitten or scratched by an animal with rabies, or any animal, wash the wound with soap and water for at least five minutes and then see a doctor as soon as possible and get necessary medication,” said Dr Kinlay Dorji.

If you are bitten by a rabid animal, it can take months or even years to show the rabies symptoms depending on the location of the bite, said Dr Kinlay Dorji.  The virus sticks to nerve cells working its way through the nervous system and eventually the virus makes its way to the brain and there is no cure.

Between 2006 and 2014, 16 human deaths were reported due to rabies.

In 2009, the Department of Livestock and Humane Society International, a United States-based non-governmental organisation launched National Dog Population Management and Rabies Control Project to effectively manage dog population in a scientific, humane, and sustainable manner.

The project coordinator, Dr Hiruka Mahat, said that to overcome the challenge of rabies outbreaks in the southern part of the country, the department has been concentrating on high-risk areas by organising a month-long mass dog vaccination programme since 2013.

Dechen Tshomo