September 28, 2009

China Reports Second Highest Human Death Rate From Rabies

The Chinese government reported that China is second only to India in the number of people worldwide who are killed by rabies every year, making the disease one of the nation's biggest public health threats, AFP reported.

A statement released by the health ministry said China is one of the countries most severely affected by rabies, and in recent years the number of annual reported deaths from rabies has averaged around 2,400.

"It is only inferior in number to India, and gives us the world's second-place ranking," it said.

The statement warned that rabies was among the top three infectious diseases in China. It was issued to coincide with World Rabies Day on Monday.

The other two serious diseases with high fatality rates are AIDS and tuberculosis, according to the official Global Times newspaper.

Rabies is almost invariably fatal if treatment is not administered prior to the onset of severe symptoms.

Malaise, headache and fever, acute pain, violent movements, uncontrolled excitement, depression and inability to swallow water are among the early-stage symptoms of rabies.

Patients may even experience periods of mania and lethargy, followed by coma. The primary cause of death is usually respiratory insufficiency.

Treatment after exposure, known as post-exposure prophylaxis or "P.E.P.", is highly successful in preventing the disease if administered promptly, generally within ten days of infection.

More than 55,000 people die from rabies -- a disease most often transmitted through animal bites -- every year, with 95 percent of the cases in Asia or Africa, according to the World Health Organization.