At least 78 people have been killed over the last two years by bites from rabid dogs roaming Bali, a top tourist hotspot. The island is dangerously short of rabies vaccines for humans, and overwhelmed by more than 30,000 dog bites each year. Officials recently killed some 200,000 dogs instead of initially conducting mass animal vaccinations, as recommended by the World Health Organization. “We are very short of treatment across the island,” warned the chief of Bali’s provincial health ministry. “We need help.” So far no Bali tourists have died of rabies, but a number of nations, including the US and Australia, have issued travelers warnings.
The first case of rabies was discovered in 2008 and the disease has spread rapidly since. It’s difficult to wipe out the rabies in part because of the esteem the Balinese hold for dogs. Packs of flea-bitten Bali dogs at beaches, markets and parks are allowed to roam and breed freely as part of the island’s Hindu tradition, reports AP. In the traditional Balinese faith, people believe that dogs will take them to heaven. Some 55,000 people a year die of rabies, most of them in Asia. Post-exposure rabies is easily cured with a vaccine, but once symptoms appear, it’s too late.