Deadly disease reared up in 2018 due to a shortage of vaccines from 2016 and an explosion of the disease among the country’s population of wild dogs. The latest plan focuses on the vaccination of animals reaching into every locality of the kingdom with the help of sub-district volunteers.
Thailand is setting out a short three-year programme to eliminate rabies through the appointment of up to 8,600 ‘Livestock Volunteers’ across each of the kingdom’s subdistricts to ensure that all dogs and cats, whether in the streets or owned as pets, are fully vaccinated against rabies which killed 5 people in 2021 and nearly four times that figure in 2018.
Thailand’s Minister of Agriculture has launched a new initiative to eliminate rabies in the kingdom by 2025.
The new plan is based on reaching into local areas with a new army of ‘livestock volunteers’ to vaccinate dogs and cats nationally while also creating more awareness of rabies from which there is a vaccine available to all people in Thailand.
7% of the threat from rabies in Thailand comes from bats with dogs now accounting for 92% and cats 1%
Rabies is a deadly zoonotic disease which can only be spread by a bite from an animal, in most cases from infected dogs.
Worldwide, up to 99% of cases are spread by rabid dogs but in Thailand, in recent years, the figures are 92% from dogs, 7% from bats and 1% from cats.
The disease, if not treated swiftly and properly, is fatal in most cases with figures in 2018 showing that a human being dies on the planet from the disease every 10 minutes.
The risk of rabies in Thailand has steadily receded over the past few decades with constant government action including the removal of wild dogs from urban areas and the vaccination of both animals and humans.
Deaths from rabies are down by over 90%
Three decades ago, up to 100 people died from the disease per annum, a figure which has been reduced by over 90% with zero deaths in 2019 and 2020 and 5 deaths only in 2021.
However, repeated goals and targets set to eradicate the disease have so far not been achieved while Thailand has dropped to being a country where the threat from the disease is seen as moderate rather than high.
Nevertheless, visitors to Thailand are urged to seek a vaccine against the disease and other medical threats such as malaria before travelling as a matter of caution particularly to more remote parts of Thailand although the main threat from the disease is among stray dog gangs in suburban areas on the outskirts of population centres.
2018 flare up caused by vaccine procurement issue and out of control soi dog population in key centres
Thailand experienced an outbreak of rabies in 2018 when up to 20 people died in the kingdom following a procurement problem in 2016 which saw a shortage of vaccines available to be administered.
The plan outlined on Monday by the Ministry of Agriculture in Thailand led by Agriculture Minister Chalermchai Sri-on has set a target to vaccinate 80% of all dogs and cats in the country on an annual basis.
This includes stray dogs or soi dogs as well as pets held by residents.
Pet owners will be made more aware of the disease and will be reminded of their responsibility to control the movement and behaviour of their animals in public places.
Central part of the plan will be the appointment of 8,600 ‘Livestock Inspectors’ across sub-districts
However, the central part of the plan will involve the appointment of up to 8,600 ‘Livestock Volunteers’ across the kingdom with 2 to 3 people serving within each sub-district being responsible for the implementation of this plan.
Each volunteer will receive training and be awarded a training certificate.
They will also receive an official identification card and a letter of assignment from a practising veterinarian in accordance with the Rabies Act of 1992.
The government has published the initiative and given contact details where volunteers for the new programme can register such as by telephone at 0066-2-653-4444.
Currently, it is a legal requirement for all pet owners to have their cats and dogs vaccinated against rabies with a fine of ฿200 for failing to do so.
More radical plans, outlined over the last six years including using microchips on all dogs and animals, have been proposed but these were overruled by the Prime Minister’s Office on the basis that the costs involved would be prohibitive to most ordinary Thai people.
Stray dogs will remain the key threat with an ongoing campaign to vaccinate them for rabies the answer
The prevalence of rabies in Thailand is linked to the country’s large population of stray dogs in Bangkok and surrounding provinces as well as Northeastern provinces, the far north and the deep south.
In 2018, following a significant outbreak of rabies nationwide, then Governor of Bangkok, Aswin Kwanmuang, launched an intensive programme to track down and remove large numbers of stray dogs from the capital and move them to a facility in Uthai Thani province where they could be vaccinated and neutered.
Thailand this year is battling another deadly threat – rabies. For now it is under control but it requires action
In all, 8,000 animals were removed from the city’s population of 100,000.
Figures have shown that between 5% and 10% of soi dogs or stray dogs in Thailand may be carrying rabies although the problem has eased off with more vaccines for both animals and the human population now being made available.
About the Author
James Morris is a pename for an international writer based in Bangkok who works on various international news media. He is a sub editor with the Thai Examiner news website since it began in 2015. Son Nguyen is an international writer and news commentator specialising in Thai news and current affairs. He commenced working with the Thai Examiner News Desk in May 2018.