Rabies Control and Veterinary Authority
Friday, 5 March 2010
With rabies still in Bali, we are again shocked by the news of rabies outbreak in Nias Island. As of other small islands around Sumatra Island, Nias was previously historically free from rabies. But as rabies emerged in Bengkalis and Rupat islands in March 2009, Nias has now been infected by the disease as well.
Sumatra Island itself does have considerably high cases of rabies. Data from the Ministry of Agriculture stated there were 2,600 bite cases in Sumatra in 2008. From specimens submitted for laboratory diagnosis, 73.4% were positive for rabies. With high numbers of rabies cases in Sumatra, small islands surrounding Sumatra, which are historically rabies free because the sea acted as a natural barrier, are at high risk of contracting the disease.
Rabies outbreaks in Bengkalis, Rupat, Bali, and Nias islands indicate that we could not rely on the sea alone to prevent rabies from spreading. It must be complemented with strict traffic monitoring, surveillance, and appropriate control measures.
Reflecting on this condition, there is an urgent need to assess all small islands surrounding Sumatra for rabies. The assessment should then be followed by disease surveillance and control strategies.
The SEARO WHO Regional Zoonotic Meeting in November 2007 named rabies as second priority after AI. In Indonesia rabies is a main priority disease as stated through the Director General of Livestock Services Regulation No. 59 Year 2007. But until now, Indonesia has not succeeded in mitigating the disease which lately tends to spread more and more.
The World Animal Health Organization (OIE) stated that the success of control and eradication programs for zoonotic diseases and emerging and re-emerging diseases requires the support of effective veterinary legislation, strong veterinary authority, and the participation and commitment of many parties. According to OIE, effective veterinary legislation are very important to give authority to the veterinary authority to go to infected areas, establish and conduct early disease detection, disease reporting, disease management, and rapid disease control for all animal diseases, including zoonoses. If necessary, the veterinary authority must also have the power to confiscate animal or animal products, ban the importation of animal and animal products, conduct quarantine functions, and conduct tests and other procedures necessary to control disease spread and protect public health.
Effective veterinary legislation will create a national animal health system and for the system to function well, the veterinary authority must have the competence in conducting all efforts to detect, prevent, control and eradicate animal disease.
Also, global threats in the form of emerging and re-emerging diseases which resulted from the current human lifestyle, changes in the animal ecosystem and the environment has instigated the international society to develop a “One World One Health” concept where the collaboration, participation, and commitment of veterinary authorities, public health authorities, other government authorities, the general public, private sectors, and non-government organizations are highly required.
Do we have effective animal health regulations? Do we have an animal health system? Do we have a competent veterinary authority? Have we build collaboration with various parties? Without it all, controlling and eradicating zoonotic diseases, such as rabies, and other animal diseases will only be a dream.