People in China and other Asian countries are dying of rabies. But it’s not because dogs are biting them — it’s because they are biting dogs, eating 18-80 million a year just in China.
“Rabies is a major problem in China. The country’s Ministry of Health says it has the second highest rate in the world after India.” And it’s getting worse. Human rabies cases appear to be on the rise in China based on the most recent numbers available. “In 2007, there were 3,302 confirmed human rabies cases in China, nearly 21 times the number found from the entire period between 1990 and 1996.”
It’s not just eating the meat that causes rabies. Slaughtering, processing and cooking it may be even more dangerous. After a rabies outbreak led to human fatalities in Vietnam, government officials “reported that 70% of deaths were from dog bites but up to 30% were thought to be linked to exposure during slaughter or butchery.”
“In a March 17 study from Hanoi published by the PLoS Medicine magazine, researchers pointed to two cases of human rabies in Vietnam where the patients were believed infected while butchering a rabid animal — in one case a dog, the other a cat.”
“In the first patient’s case, he had prepared and eaten a dog that had been killed in a road traffic accident; rabid dogs were known to inhabit the neighbourhood. The second patient had butchered and eaten a cat that had been sick for a number of days.” Other people who ate the same meat did not fall ill.
Wellcome Trust explains the severity of rabies in humans:
Rabies is a very serious – and in nearly all cases fatal – disease. It is estimated to kill over 30,000 people each year in Asia, and the number of cases in China and Viet Nam is increasing. Symptoms include agitation, severe spasms, fever, fear of water and inability to drink liquids, and eventually death.
There is a vaccine for rabies and even a treatment that can cure the disease after infection, but it must be administered very quickly after the patient contracts rabies. “Once a person shows symptoms, the disease is almost invariably fatal.”
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