China: officials try to reduce risk of rabies outbreak

Officials in the eastern city of Jining said Thursday they would kill all dogs within five kilometers (three miles) of areas where rabies was found, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The measure came in response to the deaths of 16 people from rabies in Jining in the last eight months, Xinhua said. It didn't say when the killing would begin or how many animals would be killed or how, but said the city had about 500,000 dogs.

Rabies cases are on the rise in China, with more than 2,000 people dying from the disease each year. Only 3 percent of the country's dogs are vaccinated against rabies.

The slaughter in Jining, in Shandong province, comes just days after the killings of a reported 50,000 dogs in a weeklong crackdown in Mouding county in southwestern China's Yunnan province, launched after three people died of rabies.

The earlier massacre sparked unusually pointed criticism in state media and calls for a boycott of Chinese products from activist group People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Other massacres have been reported elsewhere in China this year, although the government says it has no standard policy of culling dogs.

People answering phones at Jining's city government and epidemic control center refused to comment or said they weren't authorized to release information to media.

The World Health Organization has not directly criticized the culls, although WHO experts describe them as stopgap measures that underscore a lack of coordination and other problems with China's struggling health care system.

The killings have prompted heavy commentary in state media and online forums, with opinions strong divided.

Rabies attacks the nervous system. In humans, it normally results in death within a week after symptoms develop.