No Decline in NTT Rabies Deaths
Kupang. Efforts to curb the spread of rabies in East Nusa Tenggara appear to have failed, with deaths from the disease increasing in the past seven years when compared to the seven years prior.
The latest figures released by the Health Ministry show that from 2005 until August of this year, 130 people died of the illness in the province known as NTT, said Rita Kusriastuti, the Health Ministry’s head of animal-borne infectious diseases. This was an increase from the 120 people who died from rabies-infected dog bites from 1998 to 2005.
“Haven’t we learned enough already from the hundreds of our brothers that have died?” she asked in Kupang, the provincial capital, on Thursday. “How many more victims do we need before we can start to seriously contain rabies in NTT?”
The government, through the Health Ministry, launched in 2005 the “Indonesia Rabies-Free” program.
Rita said several events will be held in the province to mark World Rabies Day, which falls on Sept. 28.
“This effort to fight the virus in NTT needs support from all parties,” she said.
“The national commemoration will be centered in Maumere, the capital of Sikka, on Oct. 8 and 9. The initial preparation will begin on Sept. 24 and 25.”
Based on the ministry’s criteria, a region is declared rabies-free if it has no history of rabies or if a region has had no cases of rabies infections for two years, a fact that needs to be confirmed in laboratory tests.
“Three provinces have proven their success,” Rita said. “We as NTT residents can also achieve an ‘NTT free of rabies,’ provided that we have the will and we work hard.”
Rita said she hoped to see related institutions, religious figures, nongovernmental organizations and anti-rabies activists attending the World Rabies Day event. She added that NTT was chosen to host the event due to the high rabies rate there.
“We hope many people will attend the event.” Earlier this week, a nongovernmental group said it intends to completely eradicate rabies on the islands of Flores and Lembata by 2017 through close cooperation with local authorities and by raising awareness among residents of the two NTT islands.
Asep Purnama, coordinator of the Rabies Prevention and Eradication Community, said on Monday that his organization was setting up committees on the two islands to coordinate anti-rabies efforts by the various district administrations.
He said a “road map” for eradicating rabies on the islands by 2017, drawn up by Dr. Maria Geong, a Kupang-based expert on the disease, would be presented at the National Rabies Day commemorations on Oct. 8.