Despite economic and healthcare advances, the majority of China has not had easy access to human rabies vaccines and the disease has risen in recent years from fewer than 200 cases in the 1990s to 3,302 in 2007. This statistic makes rabies the third-biggest infectious disease killer in China after AIDS and tuberculosis.
"What's causing the outbreak? Money, for one, says Charles Rupprecht, head of rabies research at the CDC. Dogs are prized in some areas of China both as a delicacy and as personal protection. Many families have enough income to raise semiferal animals but not enough to cover complete veterinary care. The country is now home to 200 million dogs, less than 10 percent of which are vaccinated for rabies. Pampered pets, they are not.
Although China's Ministry of Agriculture is in charge of annual rabies vaccination campaign, scientists say local governments periodically skip the program to save money. And even if they were diligent in their efforts, a 2008 study showed that two locally produced vaccines were so weak they only conferred protection to 10 to 20 percent of animals. "