According to the ministries, more than 100 people were bitten by wild animals and dogs and were in need of medical and preventive treatments. Since the beginning of 2009 there has been a concerning rise in the number of dogs infected with rabies – 21 dogs, including seven domestic dogs and 14 wandering ones.
Israel is working to diminish the incurable disease through a mandatory annual vaccination for each dog over three months old, and recommends immunizing cats and ferrets as well. In addition, wandering dogs are being captured across the country and wild animals are given oral vaccinations with the help of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, particularly among foxes and jackals.
An Agriculture Ministry official says that most cases have been discovered in northern Israel, as the borders with Syria, Lebanon and Jordan serve as a place for the passage of wild and wandering animals spreading the disease.
Israeli public awareness lowAccording to Dganit Ben-Dov, an Agriculture Ministry official in charge of enforcing the Animal Protection Law, the Israeli public's awareness to the dangers of the fatal disease "is far from being sufficient".
"Unfortunately, many dog owners view the vaccination as an annual nuisance. Those who take their dogs out without a leash and without watching them should take into account that not only are they violating the law, but also endangering the dog and the immediate vicinity," she told Ynet.
"The most significant belt of defense against the virus spreading in cities and rural areas, among wild animals, wandering dogs and humans is the domestic dog population. The more vaccinated they are, the better they protect their surroundings."
'Dog owners view vaccination as an annual nuisance'
Dozens of countries across the world – including Israel, Syria, Jordan and Iraq – will be marking World Rabies Day on Monday. The initiative, held for the third year, is organized by the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Alliance for Rabies Control, in cooperation with organizations for human and animal health across the world.
The special day is aimed at increasing the awareness and understanding about the importance of preventing rabies, which kills about 55,000 people a year, half of them under the age of 15.
According to the Agriculture Ministry's data, 29 people have died of rabies in Israel since the State's establishment.