A rabies outbreak in Panbang, considered one of the major disease outbreaks in recent times, has been brought under control.

However, two veterinary doctors from Zhemgang and Gelephu, who were stationed in Panbang since the rabies outbreak in the first week of September, are still monitoring the situation. “We will monitor for about two weeks,” Zhemgang dzongkhag’s veterinary officer, Dr Pema Wangchuk, said.

Dr Pema Wangchuk said that a 17-member rapid response team (RRT) comprising of both health and livestock officials as well as some community members managed to contain the rabies outbreak after conducting preventive measures like public education, mass dog vaccination and surveillance for more than a month.

The team covered more than 357 households excluding education and religious institutions during the door-to-door awareness campaign.

He also said that the RRT members were downsized to two on October 11 after discussing the present situation at the director level.

As of October 11, 16 stray dogs were tested positive for rabies and died including seven cattle. Nine cattle bitten by rabid dogs are on observation, according to Dr Tshewang Gembo of Gelephu Thromde veterinary hospital and satellite lab.

About 185 people including students are undergoing rabies post exposure treatment at Panbang BHU.

As of now, 371 dogs and 98 cats were vaccinated under Panbang Drungkhag.

RR team from Thimphu, Zhemgang and Gelephu were sent to Panbang after a rabies infection in a dog was confirmed on September 3 at Marangdud and Tungudempa villages in Ngangla Gewog. A rabid dog had bitten three children and nine cattle on the same day. The people killed the rabid dog and the brain tissue sample tested positive to rabies virus.

Dr Pema Wangchuk said that a three-year-old girl was also bitten by a rabid dog on September 21. A rabid dog bit two more students on September 28 during the celebration of World Rabies Day in Ngangla Gewog. The day’s theme “Rabies: Zero by 2030” was organised in Panbang considering the recent rabies outbreak.

The day created awareness about the impact of rabies on humans and animals, provided advice on how to prevent the disease and garner support from the communities to help the livestock and public health sectors in eliminating rabies in future.

According to Dr Pema Wangchuk and Dr Tshewang Gembo, although the source of rabies outbreak is unknown, it is likely due to trans boundary movement of rabid dogs.

Ngangla gup Rinchen Wangdi said that the source of rabies in Panbang is assumed to be a stray dog, which reportedly came from Mathanguri across the Manas border in Assam. Panbang is about 15 km from Mathanguri.

Dr Pema Wangchuk said this is the first rabies outbreak recorded in Panbang although a 60-year-old man from Sonamthang, also in Panbang, died in 2006 because of rabies.

Rinzin Wangchuk, Panbang