Rabies case confirmed near Seoul
By Kim Tae-gyu
A case of rabies was confirmed near Seoul last week for the first time in almost 40 years, prompting the government to issue a warning against the highly-contagious disease spreading.
The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MIFAFF) issued the warning over the weekend after it discovered the case in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province, approximately 30 kilometers south of Seoul.
This is the first time since the mid-1980s that the viral disease has been discovered in a highly populated area.
``Early last week, a resident in Hwaseong reported his dog behaving strangely. An examination showed that the dog had come down with rabies,’’ MIFAFF Director Choi Jung-rok said.
``To prevent its spread, we have started inoculating all domestic animals in the nearby area, and the farm where the elderly couple live. The couple were also vaccinated as a precaution.’’
Rabies is a potentially lethal disease which causes acute inflammation of the brain. It is can be passed from animals such as dogs, cows or badgers to humans mostly through bites.
The disease is still rampant in less developed countries and thousands die from it every year worldwide.
Reports of rabies in Korea virtually disappeared in 1985 before it returned in 1993. But all the cases were in remote places such as the demilitarized zone (DMZ), the heavily-fortified area separating the two Koreas.
Four cases were reported last year around the mountainous DMZ, substantially down from 19 in 2009 and 10 in 2010.
``The dog in question had a fight with a badger, its owner testified. We suspect it caught rabies from the animal. We have already set up an emergency operation center in Hwaseong,’’ Choi said.
``Up until now, we have channeled our efforts and budget to deal with rabies at the DMZ and its vicinity. But we plan to expand our coverage in the aftermath of the Hwaseong outbreak.’’
The Seoul administration has earmarked 952 million won for rabies vaccines and 2.4 billion won for medicine, which can be mixed with food that wild animals vulnerable to rabies consume.
MIFAFF asked people to avoid contact with wild animals such as stray dogs and to report any suspicious cases to the quarantine authority at 1588-4060 or 1588-9060.
``People should not touch stray animals whether they are alive or dead. If they do, they should immediately visit a hospital,’’ Choi said. ``If people contract rabies, they will recover if they receive immediate treatment.’’