Make sure you are vaccinated, your pets are! Aren’t they?
At the recent Vietnam Animal Welfare Conference, an annual event promoting animal (pets, farm animals and wildlife) protection movement, Dr. Phan Xuan Thao, Director at the HCMC Department of Animal Heath, presented a poignant reminder of the persistent danger of contracting Rabies in Vietnam. Rabies is a virus transmitted through the saliva of an animal that causes acute encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and is fatal if not detected and treated immediately. Although the majority of Rabies cases are reported from rural areas, urban Saigon is not completely immune, where only Districts 1, 3, 4 and 5 are considered Rabies free.
Startlingly statistics recently reported by the Department of Preventive Medicine and the Ministry of Health highlight the gravity of the situation where 400,000 people are bitten by cats, dogs and other animals annually in Vietnam, and to date, 49 people have died from Rabies in 2016.
A factor in the spread of rabies is the overpopulation of cats and dogs created by the demands of the dog meat trade through the smuggling and trafficking of mostly unvaccinated dogs into Vietnam from neighboring countries. A few unvaccinated dogs may escape their captors and run with other stray dogs that might be carriers of the virus. Dr. Thao mentioned that stray dogs are very hard to track and manage especially in suburban and rural areas where the trafficking of stolen dogs takes place.
High risk groups in need of Rabies Vaccinations
Rabies can be transmitted by dogs, cats, bats, and other domestic and wild animals in Vietnam. The Department of Animal Health in HCMC recommends vaccinations for the following groups:
All long-term stay Expats with dogs that ‘socialize’ with other dog owner’s in public spaces and may walk their dogs in rural areas off leash
Frequent travelers to Vietnam involved in outdoor and other recreational activities such as camping, hiking, biking, adventure travel and caving, especially in the Northern Highlands regions.
Individuals who are in direct contact and working with animals such as veterinarians / staff and especially animal rescue volunteers.
All children must be vaccinated as they have a natural tendency to play with neighborhood stray dogs . They might not tell you that they were bitten, scratched or licked from possible un-vaccinated dogs and cats that may have rabies.
Puppy and Kitten Rabies Vaccinations
Puppies from properly vaccinated mothers receive maternal antibodies against rabies for their first 3 months, therefore it is recommended to vaccinate a dog at 3 months, again at 9 months and re-vaccinate annually or at least every 3 years.
It is recommended to keep your ‘Pet Health Passport’ current and available as representatives of the HCMC Department of Animal Health make random checks on households throughout Saigon to check if your dog and cat are vaccinated.
Also, beware of the issues in the storage and handling of Rabies vaccines by local Veterinarians. Rabies vacancies must be refrigerated and maintained at temperatures ranging from 35-45°F (2-7°C). Temperatures higher or lower than this range can result in the death of the living vaccine organisms, leaving the product ineffective.
Rabies also play a critical role in leaving Vietnam with your pets. Since Vietnam is designated a High-Risk Rabies country and no matter what your destination you have to have your cat or dog tested for Rabies at your cost. There are many capable relocation service agencies and veterinarian clinics to help you in Saigon. (See my article, ‘Flying with Fido. Travelling with your Pets – Part Two’).
Do you need a Rabies Vaccination?
If you had a Rabies vaccination before coming to Vietnam as a result of following travel advisory advice (Pre-exposure vaccinations), then the effectiveness of a Rabies vaccination is about 10 years or more. If this is all new to you and never considered Rabies please arrange to get a vaccination immediately. It just takes one sudden bite and never assume that all dogs you encounter are vaccinated.
Clinics in HCMC (Saigon) to receive Rabies (BỆNH DẠI) Vaccination:
167 Pastuer, P. 8 Q. 3 (www.pasteurhcm.gov.vn)
Victoria Healthcare International Clinics
79 Điện Biên Phủ, P. ĐaKao, Q. 1
135A Nguyễn Văn Trỗi, Q. Phú Nhuận
Broadway D – 152 Nguyễn Lương Bằng, Q. 7
81 Điện Biên Phủ, Q. 1
6 Nguyen Luong Bang, Saigon South (Phu My Hung), Q. 7
Bitexco Financial Tower, 3rd floor, 2 Hai Trieu, Q. 1
International SOS Vietnam
167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St, Q. 3
Clinics in Hanoi to receive Rabies (BỆNH DẠI) Vaccination:
Image courtesy of WikiMedia’s article on Rabies…