Hong Kong is one of the few places in the world that is rabies free. However, this has not always been the case, and we need to be aware that there is an ever-present risk of reintroduction. Hong Kong is a part of China and therefore it is unsurprising that the most likely source of rabies into Hong Kong is from the mainland.
In the last 60 years, Hong Kong has had two outbreaks of rabies, in the 1950s and 1980s, and both coincided with outbreaks in China. Through the concerted efforts of various parties including the Government Veterinary Services (under the AFCD) and the public, these outbreaks were brought under control and the disease eradicated. Certain behaviours however do put Hong Kong at greater risk.
Smuggling is carried out on a significant scale for the commercial pet trade. In addition, members of the public may go on shopping trips to China and on impulse buy a cute puppy or kitten – usually the pet shop will offer a “delivery service”, into Hong Kong, which avoids the mandatory 4 months quarantine by AFCD.
Human rabies deaths have also resulted when people visiting rabies endemic areas get bitten by rabid animals and do not seek medical help before returning to Hong Kong.
In 1986, a man in Fan Ling died of rabies when he was bitten by a rabid dog when visiting Guangdong. In 1999 and 2001, two domestic helpers died in Hong Kong after being bitten by dogs in their home countries.
In 2010, more than 2000 people died from rabies in China. From 1996 to 2010, 60% of rabies cases in China were reported in southern Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan and Sichuan provinces, believed to be due to a major increase in dog ownership and a very low rate of vaccination.
Between January to September 2006, 6 people died of rabies in Shenzhen. During that period, some 32,900 people were bitten by dogs. Officials attributed the increase in stray dogs to an increased number of pet owners abandoning their pets as pet ownership becomes more popular.
Between 2007 and 2010, there were 25 human deaths from rabies in Shenzhen and the number of animal bites reported had doubled to more than 60,000 (ibid). In 2009, the Shenzhen government held free dog rabies vaccination schemes for all dogs in April and September that year. As of September 2010, human rabies deaths in Shenzhen have been of migrant workers being bitten by rabid animals outside of Shenzhen.
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE RABIES - IT IS A HORRIFIC DISEASE FOR MAN AND ANIMAL