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The History of Rabies in Indonesia: From the Dutch East Indies to Present Day

Title: A Brief History of Rabies in Indonesia

Date: June 20, 2023

Rabies is a topic of widespread discussion in recent days, particularly due to the tragic death of a girl in Bali who was bitten by her rabid pet dog. This acute disease, also known as mad dog disease, affects animals but can be transmitted to humans. To understand the context of rabies in Indonesia, let’s delve into its history.

Rabies was first discovered in Indonesia in 1883 when it affected a horse. Subsequently, in 1889, rabies was found in dogs in West Java, and in 1894, the first case of rabies infecting humans was reported. Initially, rabies cases were limited to West Java, North Sumatra, and South Sumatra before spreading to various other regions in Indonesia.

During the Dutch East Indies era, the government implemented regulations to respond promptly to any new cases of rabies due to the recognized danger of the virus. However, after Indonesia gained independence, rabies outbreaks became increasingly widespread, affecting most provinces in Sumatra, Java, and Kalimantan. Notably, Bali, NTB, and NTT were the only provinces with zero positive cases of rabies at that time.

The surge in rabies cases led the government to issue decrees in 1978, jointly issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, and Ministry of Home Affairs. These decrees provided rules and guidelines for handling epidemic rabies cases in Indonesia.

In recent times, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) has experienced a significant increase in rabies cases since April, primarily due to animal bites. Consequently, the South Central Timor Regency government declared a Rabies Extraordinary Case (KLB) status on May 30, 2023. In response, NTT Governor Viktor Laiskodat instructed the Animal Husbandry Service to administer the rabies vaccine to pets, particularly dogs, which are at high risk of contracting the virus.

It is important to note that while rabies cases have been prevalent in recent times, the disease has been present in Indonesia since the Dutch East Indies era. Rabies is an acute infectious disease caused by the rabies virus, which attacks the human central nervous system. The virus can be transmitted to humans through the saliva of infected cats, dogs, and monkeys, as well as bites from animals previously infected with rabies.

In conclusion, the history of rabies in Indonesia dates back to the late 19th century. Over time, the disease spread across various regions, prompting the government to implement regulations and issue decrees to combat its impact. The recent surge in cases in NTT highlights the ongoing challenges in controlling and preventing rabies in Indonesia.

– [1] The rabies distribution pattern on dogs using average nearest neighbor analysis approach in the Karangasem District, Bali, Indonesia in 2019. Available at: [URL]

Why have the efforts to control rabies in Bali, such as mass dog vaccination campaigns and culling of infected animals, not been successful in completely eliminating the disease

Ks were not effectively controlled, resulting in a significant increase in cases.

In the 1970s, efforts to control rabies were reintroduced in Indonesia. Mass vaccination campaigns for dogs were conducted, aimed at reducing the number of rabid animals. However, these efforts were not sustained, and the control of rabies remained inadequate.

It wasn’t until 2004 that a national rabies control program was officially launched by the Indonesian government. The program included a combination of dog vaccination, public education, and enhanced surveillance and response measures. Despite these interventions, rabies continued to be a persistent problem in Indonesia.

In recent years, the island of Bali has been particularly affected by rabies outbreaks. The first confirmed case of rabies in a dog was reported in Bali in 2008, and since then, the disease has spread rapidly among the canine population. Efforts to control the outbreak, such as mass dog vaccination campaigns and culling of infected animals, have been implemented, but the disease remains a challenge in Bali.

Today, rabies remains a public health concern in Indonesia. The country has one of the highest rates of rabies in the world, with frequent reports of human fatalities due to the disease. The government continues to prioritize rabies control measures, including the vaccination of dogs and awareness campaigns to educate the public about the risk of rabies and preventive measures.

In conclusion, rabies has a long history in Indonesia, with significant efforts made to control the disease. Despite these efforts, rabies remains a persistent problem, particularly in certain regions such as Bali. Continued commitment and further improvements in vaccination coverage and public awareness are crucial to effectively combat rabies in Indonesia.

1 thought on “The History of Rabies in Indonesia: From the Dutch East Indies to Present Day”

  1. This insightful article beautifully highlights the evolution of rabies in Indonesia, tracing its roots from the colonial era to the present day. It offers a comprehensive overview of the efforts made to combat this deadly disease, shedding light on the challenges faced and the progress achieved. A must-read for anyone interested in the history of public health in Indonesia.


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