Bangladesh to cull dogs over rabies threat

Bangladesh is planning a nationwide drive to cull, vaccinate and neuter stray dogs after new data showed rabies emerging as a major killer, a government health official said Tuesday.

Nearly 100,000 people reported being bitten by dogs in 2009 and at least 2,000 people died of rabies, said Moazzem Hossain, head of disease control at the government's health department.

"Rabies has emerged as a huge public health concern," he said, adding that Bangladesh had the highest per capita rate of rabies deaths in the world.

"Rabies does not get the kind of attention that AIDS or malaria get although they kill only scores, not even hundreds, of people here," he said.

The new anti-rabies drive, set to kick off next month, will see teams sent out to round up hundreds of thousands of stray dogs nationwide, culling all rabid animals and neutering and vaccinating others.

In 2009, Bangladesh launched a similar huge drive against stray dogs after a shortage of anti-rabies vaccine led to a spate of deaths from the disease.

Dhaka city authorities sent out crack squads to kill dogs, culling up to 20,000 strays during the campaign, officials said at the time.

Earlier this month, the government introduced a new vaccine to help prevent rabies, finally stopping its reliance on the "nerve tissue vaccine" which the World Health Organisation ordered should be phased out worldwide in 2006.