Bali Rabies Epidemic

Mar 22nd, 2010, in News, by

dogMangy, bite-happy stray dogs on Bali and an outbreak of rabies have authorities scrambling.

Besides the omnipresent scattered waste Bali now also has to deal with the problem of rabies infections which, aggravated by the indisciplined and negligent mindset of many Balinese who still let their dogs roam the streets, continue to mount on the resort island.

The local newspaper Radar Bali reports that deaths attributed to the disease are also mounting in the face of the depletion of emergency government funds allocated to fight rabies. In the light of the worsening situation, Governor Made Mangku Pastika on February 23, 2010, convened those delegated with fighting rabies in Bali for a meeting.

rabies dogIn attendance were representatives from the Bali Department of Health dealing with communicable disease, environmental health officials and representatives from Bali’s main general hospital. Following that meeting, the officials told the press that Bali was still in an ‘extraordinary situation’ in its confrontation with rabies, made worse by the high rates of dog bites being reported to the authorities every day.

Bali’s main general hospital at Sanglah is reporting a daily rate of 60 dog bites, with other satellite general hospitals across the island treating an average of between 25-30 cases a day. Authorities estimate around 85 dog bites are taking place island-wide on a daily basis. Since November 2008, a total of 31,000 dog bite injuries have occurred in Bali with 28,000 people being given anti-rabies serum. The current count estimates that there have been 59 cases of rabies of which 28 have been clinically confirmed as resulting from the disease.

Fearful of a further spread of the disease, disease control authorities have renewed their calls for the elimination of stray dogs in Bali. Dr. Ken Wirasandi of the Sanglah General Hospital, who serves the Secretary of the hospital’s rabies control center, confirms that rabies has now spread to almost every regency and metropolitan center in Bali:

Klungkung which was formerly said to be safe has now seen one patient from that area die at Sanglah hospital. The one area still free from rabies is the regency of Jembrana.

Rabies treatment must be commenced as quickly as possible after suffering a possibly contagious bite. Unfortunately, once clinical symptoms of rabies appear in a patient there is little that can be done medically to save the victim’s life. There is also a growing problem securing a sufficient supply of anti-rabies serum to dog-bite victims.

47 Comments on “Bali Rabies Epidemic”

  1. deta says:

    No wonder, dog has always been a cowboy’s best friend 😀
    Two ways to overcome this rabies problem: vaccination for dogs and people, and elimination (for dogs only).

    Nice article btw, ET.

  2. Cukurungan says:

    Cruel solution…why balinese do not try the proven the Javanese ways in handling the dog issue, just invite several Batak and Menadonese to settle in Bali …trust me in very sort time the population dogs in Bali will eventually under control while Balinese will think twice to let their beloved dog roaming on the street

  3. deta says:

    Cukky…. with so many fast food restaurants around, I don’t think B1 is a highly demanded option in their menu nowadays.

  4. ET says:

    What to do if bitten by a dog in Bali during this current epidemic?

    1. Flush the wound immediately with running water and detergent for at least 10 minutes, then apply iodine or alcohol.
    2. Call the rabies team at Sanglah hospital 081-23958111 or go directly to the hospital. You may require urgent vaccination and immunoglobin depending on the category of the bite/severity of the wound.
    3. Call the Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) hotline 081-1389004 who will pick up the dog for observation.

    There are myths going round, spread by some animal ‘lovers’, that roaming dogs don’t necessarily cause rabies, only unvaccinated dogs, and that vaccinated dogs provide an excellent barrier to the movement of rabid dogs on the streets, because of the territorial nature of these animals.
    This is utter nonsense.
    If there are no stray dogs a lot less bites will happen because dogs tend to be aggressive towards anyone strange to their territory. Just try to bicycle through a Balinese banjar and you will know what I mean. Less bites means less risk of infection.
    Of course dog bites will continue to happen but when it happens in a house compound the dog and its history at least will be known, the animal can be confined immediately and the necessary measures taken for vaccination or culling.

    Dogs don’t belong on the streets, not only because of this rabies epidemic but also because many, even deadly, accidents happen caused by the collision of motorbikes and stray dogs.

  5. ET says:

    No wonder, dog has always been a cowboy’s best friend

    No deta, his right hand is.

  6. timdog says:

    Nice piece ET, proper public service stuff. I spent the last five weeks in Bali, and amongst other fairly horrific things about the place turned up by routine scanning of the local media, which make dear old Surabaya seem like a soft, benign, crime-free, corruption-free Shangri La, the rabies really takes the (dog) biscuit…

    And I couldn’t agree more with you about the ridiculous “exterminating dogs won’t exterminate rabies” line of the doggy ladies of Ubud… If you exterminate all the dogs there sure won’t be any rabies will there?
    (I have a general problem with “saving the animals” – by which I mean filthy stray dogs and decaying donkeys, not endangered wild tigers and orangutans – in places where there are people with less access to medical care than the average western poodle, in fact, I think it’s obscene, but that’s another story).
    The counter argument to this is “you can’t kill all the dogs”, but when i wander in Kampung Jawa, or Kampung Lombok, I don’t see all those filthy curs wandering around, so it obviously is quite possible to have no stray dogs, and therefore much lower chance of rabies infection…

  7. pjbali says:

    Nice piece. It seems to me that the balinese love their dogs for the first few months or so and then abandon them once they get bigger than puppies. Stray dogs are a nuisance here. I once happenned accross an ederly women who was cornered by a group of strays while she was on her way to morning market. She could only stand there while the dogs growled and barked, showing their teeth if she tried to make a move. Luckily there was bamboo nearby and Bali dogs are actually easy to intimidate.
    For Cuk: I think lawar bali is made from dog. There are a log of dogs in Bali but you never see a nice one. Maybe the nice ones get eaten first?

  8. ET says:

    Bali dogs are actually easy to intimidate.

    True. Never show fear when confronted with an aggressive dog. Dogs – as long as they are healthy and free from rabies – will become submissive or flee if you show threatening authority. It only becomes difficult if you are on a motorbike or bicycle because your movements are restricted. In situations like this when they chase me I try to kick them in the snout but I wouldn’t recommend this unless one feels quite at ease on two wheels.

  9. Odinius says:

    As much as I love seeing all the (friendly) dogs in Bali, there’s a reason most places in the world have leash laws.

  10. Ross says:

    Ya, those horrible dogs have long been a worry to visitors. I like dogs and cats, but the condition of the canines in Kuta/Legian’s back-streets makes you think twice about strolling there.

    PJbali’s comment on lawar recipes reminded me that a Brit friend who visited Bali some years ago was very taken with that dish. She asked me to find out how it was made, but on my next trip, all the Balinese eateries I enquired in were strangely reluctant to reveal the secret. Any answers on IM? (I assumed it was bat!)

  11. venna says:

    One reason I don’t want to stay longer in Bali; because I have dog phobia. Even a cutie small chihuahua can make me jump and run away. Right now it’s not that bad, but I still prefer to stay in a distance rather than petting them.
    Lawar, isn’t it made from pig’s blood? Or chicken?

  12. pjbali says:

    Venna there are several varieties of lawar. Depends where you go. Some use chicken blood, some use pigs blood, and some use ol’yeller.

  13. Laurence says:

    Best to avoid bali, dirty, corrupt, money chasing rabid place.

  14. Ross says:

    Well,Venna, or Pj, if you have a recipe, pls advise and I’ll send it on with a warning to my friend. She’s a dog-lover, BTW!

  15. Cukurungan says:

    Cukky…. with so many fast food restaurants around, I don’t think B1 is a highly demanded option in their menu nowadays.

    Bu Deta,

    You insulted Batak and Menadonese if you thought that they eat the dog meat because there is no other meat for them. They eat this legend meat because they know a secret power in the dog meat while they can manage the available resource wisely.

    For Cuk: I think lawar bali is made from dog. There are a log of dogs in Bali but you never see a nice one. Maybe the nice ones get eaten first?

    yes but I could not find the below in Bali

  16. deta says:

    Urrgg… Pak cukky yth, those were very, very disturbing pictures. I think I will lose my appetite for several days ahead. Thanks to you.

    What is the secret power, btw? Or maybe I shouldn’t ask.

  17. Cukurungan says:

    Bu Deta,
    yes the pictures may be little bit disturbing but trust me once you could smell the fragnant smoke of Kepala Anjing Bakar your appetite will arise soon.

    the secret power could not be described by word but If you do not mind I can prove it to you when we have time to spend just a night in a cave

  18. deta says:

    That’s tempting Pak cukky yth, but if your four (imaginary) wives find out about this, they surely will turn me into a lawar. So I’ll pass the offer, thank you.

  19. venna says:

    I just tried lawar once, Ross & Pj, and they said it was vegetarian version. I assumed it didn’t has any blood. They were not lying to me, right?

  20. Ross says:

    Yeah, right!

  21. Odinius says:

    People do eat dog in some places, but usually when someone says “i hear it’s really dog,” it’s not.

    Back to the rabies issue, I just read this, which is interesting:

    The latest death of a 45 year-old woman, Ni Ketut Ardini, on Monday, March 8, 2010 has brought to 40 the number of fatalities tied to the continuing scourge of rabies in Bali.

    A day prior to her death the woman still managed to work in family farming lots. Approximately 1.5 months prior to her death Ardini suffered a dog bite from a family pet on the fingers of her left hand. Refusing medical treatment the woman only washed the wound with soap and water.

    The same dog reportedly bit four other family members who remain in good health As a medical precaution, the four bite victims have now been given anti-rabies serum. The family members were compelled to travel to Sanglah and Buleleng to obtain the serum, due to a lack of serum supplies in Tabanan.

  22. Odinius says:

    Look, it has very little to do with expats or locals. It has to do with the NUMBER of people in a given space consuming plastics. WHEREVER there are a lot of people consuming plastics in Indonesia, there is litter, burning piles giving off toxic fumes and the like.

    This is because Indonesia LACKS a comprehensive plan to tackle waste, and even where there are attempts, too many people blatantly disregard the rules and/or find ways to bribe their way out of it.

    Tourists do contribute to the problem, particularly in Bali, but given that this problem is in no way, shape or form particular TO Bali, it can’t be the root problem.

  23. Oracle says:

    @pjbali: no, lawar bali is made from pork. dogs are eaten, but in completely different manner, and by certain circle of people only.
    Yes, balinese love their dogs but they rely on their independent loyalty (loyal but independent). Different from westeners who pamper their dogs and take a good care about them, balinese hold Darwinian’s “nature’s selection” for their dogs survival, which is a pity, yes. Problem is, Balinese are mostly naive. Worse, the knowing people like governement and pemda are sometimes (or, most the time) are not caring, they ask people from singaraja (North Bali) to get free antidote at RS Sanglah, some 3 hourse journey which will cost around IDR 150.000 if they don’t want to pay IDR 188.000 for the antidote at RS SIngaraja. What a bulshit, isn’t it? And they’re spending some 5 Billion for overcoming the plague yet the so called “free ARV” are still rare in Bali, and the head of the General Hospital in SIngaraja said they had only 30 of them in singaraja so people have to pay for them. I am from Singaraja, living away at Singaraja, and know these people, and so sad for them…

  24. ET says:

    Problem is, Balinese are mostly naive.

    Indeed, they are. When the outbreak started in the Kuta-Bandung area people from Gyaniar told me there was no reason to worry because it was so far (30 km) away.

  25. diego says:

    Sahabat Cukky,

    Aren’t you supposed to be doing sholat in the mosque, instead of googling for such an appetite-killing image?

  26. Cukurungan says:


    Sholat is very important but it is only my private obligation while we have other common obligation to familiarize our self toward killing image and the blood shed.


  27. ET says:

    Since early March a directive from the Balinese government ordered 10.000 dogs a month to be culled. These are supposedly stray dogs. In the meantime a vaccination campaign is going on, carried out by 4 BAWA (Bali Animal Welfare Association) teams in cooperation with the Dinas Peternakan. In the Gianyar regency alone they are vaccinating about 500 dogs a day.
    A splendid initiative were it not for one certain condition. The WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals) who delivers most of the vaccine refuses to let the BAWA teams use their vaccine in banjars that don’t sign a ‘Memory of Understanding’ committing not to kill their dogs. Sometimes the BAWA team has to return to a banjar 5 times to obtain the signatures it needs, losing precious time.
    So, on the one hand the government decides to get rid of stray dogs through which most of the rabies is spread, focusing the attention on the vaccination of all kept dogs, on the other hand the WSPA refuses to have their vaccine used in banjars that comply with the government’s decision to cull stray dogs.
    Makes one wonder where the priorities and loyalties of the WSPA lie, isn’t it?

    Once again, the safest option to bring this rabies epidemic under control is by mass vaccinating the dogs and keeping them off the streets. Therefore the Government has no other choice than to kill all loose dogs and force this way those careless Balinese to look after their pets instead of letting them roam the streets thereby exacerbating the risk of spreading infection and causing numerous road accidents.

  28. pjbali says:


    My source for submitting that there are lawars out there made from dog is also balinese (from negara). I can’t say from my own experience but when I asked him if darah anjing was ever used in lawar the reply was an unequivocal pasti ada. Maybe things are different in Singaraja?
    Now that you brought up the subject I am curious to know in what circles dog is eaten, and under what circumstances?

  29. Pollyanna says:

    Hopefully the Indonesian government will quickly understand that killing dogs has never worked anywhere in the world. The only thing that works to stop rabies is vaccinating 70% of dogs.
    As soon as the government officials stop wasting money, effort, time, and manpower on painfully poisoning the Bali dogs and gets on with an effective vaccination program the rabies will be immediately brought under control.
    This could have happened at least a year ago and many lives would have been saved.

  30. Siti says:

    Sahabat Cukky,
    Aren’t you supposed to be doing sholat in the mosque, instead of googling for such an appetite-killing image?

    I know one part of Java, whose majority is Muslim but like to eat doggies (in fact doggie meat is allegedly famous there).

    Maybe Cukky is from there.

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