Deaths from Rabies Rise to 14 in 2017: Officials

A dog is vaccinated against rabies in Bangkok Sept. 10, 2015.

BANGKOK — There’s been an increase in deaths from rabies nationwide, as more than a dozen people died from the disease last year and the number of infected dogs doubled, officials said Tuesday.

Fourteen people died from rabies across 13 provinces in 2017, livestock officials said, adding that the number of infected dogs in Thailand had surpassed 300 since January – a twofold increase from last year. In contrast, 11 people died from the disease in 2016.

“If you get bitten or scratched by a dog that isn’t your pet, please go to the doctor as soon as possible and get vaccinated,” Patiwat Dilokpot, a Phetchabun Livestock Control official said by phone Tuesday. “Rabies deaths are due to people feeling too embarrassed to go to the doctor or delaying their visits. People who die from rabies die in agony.”

Provinces where people have died from rabies are Surin, Chonburi, Samut Prakan, Chachoengsao, Nan, Buriram, Ubon Ratchathani, Chiang Rai, Roi Et, Songkhla, Rayong, Tak and Srisaket. Officials found infected dogs in 42 other provinces, including Bangkok.

Rabies in Bangkok, Patiwat said, is often found in dogs that roam construction sites, which workers bring into the city from upcountry.

“We find these cases often,” he said.

Pornpitak Panlar, an official at the Department of Disease Control told reporters that the number of dogs that tested positive for rabies doubled over the past year.

In January to February, officials found 315 rabies-infected dogs. Only 160 dogs were found in the same months in 2017.

Pornpitak said this increase was due to more intensive search efforts and said that her department would try to get more funding for vaccines approved by the auditor general, adding that residents should vaccinate their pet dogs every year.

“This is very important. If you are infected and are not vaccinated you will die 100 percent,” Pornpitak said, adding that pet dogs account for about 55 percent of those infected.

Patiwat said that after a rabies death, livestock control officials check both stray and pet dogs within a 5 kilometer radius and vaccinate them.

Patiwat said to be wary of dogs that display rabies symptoms.

“Please be careful and avoid them. Don’t tease them, it could be risky since you’re strangers to them,” she said.

In August 2017, Princess Chulabhorn went to the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva to agree to make Thailand rabies-free by 2020. According to the organization, rabies in humans has dropped significantly in Thailand over the past few decades.

“We are lucky that [the princess] is spearheading this and coordinating efforts on central and local levels,” Patiwat said.