Taipei, Dec. 30 (CNA) Following the first known rabies infection of a masked palm civet in Pingtung, quarantine officials have instructed city and county governments across Taiwan to step up monitoring of rabies in wild animal populations. The Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture said that while governments focus on monitoring, the public must also take care. It urged people to get rabies vaccinations for dogs and cats, stop abandoning unwanted pets, and avoid coming into contact with wildlife as a precaution. Taiwan was listed as rabies-free since 1961 until the deadly disease was confirmed in three Formosan ferret-badgers in June 2013. It has since been found in a number of ferret-badgers, an Asian house shrew, and a domestic dog, but the newest case is the first confirmed instance in a masked palm civet. The small carnivore was found injured in Kenting National Park in southern Taiwan on Dec. 23. Park headquarters transferred it to an animal hospital, where it showed signs of terror before dying the following day. It was confirmed to have rabies on Dec. 29. On Tuesday, Kenting National Park Headquarters held an emergency meeting. Park officials asked the public to refrain from taking pets to the area and told visitors to alert an animal disease control center immediately if they find any dead wild animals, cautioning people not to attempt to dispose of the animals themselves for any reason. The Pingtung County Animal Disease Control Center warned the public to call the police if they see animals trembling or acting erratically and to get vaccinations immediately if bitten. Taiwan confirmed 276 rabies infections last year, almost exclusively in ferret-badgers, and another 141 this year through Dec. 25 this year. A total of 4,473 specimens have been tested since the first confirmed case last year through Dec. 25 this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Anyone bitten by a wild animal should clean the wound with fresh water and seek immediate medical treatment, the CDC advised. It said that adults exposed to rabies need a total of 5 shots, one each on the first, third, seventh, 14th and 28th day of exposure. The current stockpile of vaccines can last through February next year, the CDC said.
Taiwan has confirmed three imported rabies cases involving humans in the last decade -- two from China in 2002 and 2012 and one from the Philippines in 2013. (By Chen Chin-fang and Lilian Wu)