More than 10,000 residents in HCMC required rabies vaccine due to animal bites

Some 10,330 inhabitants in Ho Chi Minh City got rabies shots after they were bitten by dogs and cats in February 2024, according to the Ho Chi Minh City Center for Disease Control (HCDC) today.

A woman is bitten by a dog

The number of people getting rabies vaccine is 19,552 cumulatively since the beginning of 2024; in other words, an average of about 10,000 people need a series of rabies shots and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin each month (9,222 people in January and 10,330 people in February 2024).

According to data on the number of people having rabies vaccines in 2024, approximately 74.8 percent of people were bitten by dogs, followed by cats at 20.5 percent, bats at 0.2 percent and other animals at 4.6 percent. The majority of more than 60 percent are level 3 injuries which means the bites penetrate the skin causing bleeding or being licked by an animal on an open wound.

Dr. Danh Thom, Deputy Head of the Medical Examination Department of Ho Chi Minh City-located Tropical Diseases Hospital, said that in the first 2 months of 2024, the hospital recorded 7/7 deaths due to rabies. All dead patients were transferred from other provinces.

At the same time, the hospital also recorded nearly 5,300 people coming to the hospital to get rabies vaccine in the first 2 months of 2024, an increase of more than 1,000 compared to the same 2 months last year.

According to the Ministry of Health’s information, rabies is ravaging some cities and provinces which previously had no cases or have not recorded cases for a long time resulting in a sudden increase in these provinces and cities. Notably, the number of deaths due to rabies has increased over the years.

Specifically, the Ministry of Health said that Rabies is estimated to cause 22 human deaths from the beginning of 2024 until now, doubling compared to the same period in 2023. In 2023, 82 people died of rabies, an increase of 12 cases compared to 2022 with about 17 percent. Of these, 81/82 of the deaths were not vaccinated against rabies after being bitten by a dog. One case was vaccinated but did not receive an anti-rabies vaccine.

Not getting rabies vaccine is the direct cause of death due to rabies in humans while the indirect cause is the low rate of rabies vaccination in dogs and cats. Besides, local administrations have lax behaviors in the management of dog and cat populations. According to the Ministry of Health, through reports from veterinary agencies, from 2022 until now, the rabies vaccination rate has only reached nearly 50 percent of the total dog and cat herd; worse, the rate of vaccinated animals in some provinces and cities only reached about 10 percent particularly.

HCDC said that rabies has no known cure primarily because the virus rapidly attacks the central nervous system, making it difficult to target with traditional antiviral medication and there is no specific treatment once rabies develops. However, the disease is preventable through vaccination either before or immediately after exposure. To proactively prevent rabies, dog and cat owners need to strictly declare to local authorities and vaccinate dogs and cats against rabies according to the present regulations of the veterinary agency.

Moreover, owners of dogs and cats must keep their animals within family premises, not letting them roam freely, especially in urban areas and densely populated areas.

When dog and cat owners let their animals go out, they must have a lead and muzzle to prevent the animal from biting people and causing traffic accidents.

Anyone who is bitten by dogs or cats needs to get initial medical treatment immediately after being bitten and go to medical facilities for timely advice and preventive treatment but should not take oriental medicine or other medicines not prescribed by medical workers.

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