The rise and fall of rabies in Japan: A quantitative history of rabies epidemics in Osaka Prefecture, 1914–1933
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Kurosawa, A., Tojinbara, K., Kadowaki, H., Hampson, K., Yamada, A. and Makita, K. 2017. The rise and fall of rabies in Japan: A quantitative history of rabies epidemics in Osaka Prefecture, 1914–1933. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases 11(3): e0005435.
Permanent link to cite or share this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/90686
Japan has been free from rabies since the 1950s. However, during the early 1900s several large-scale epidemics spread throughout the country. Here we investigate the dynamics of these epidemics between 1914 and 1933 in Osaka Prefecture, using archival data including newspapers. The association between dog rabies cases and human population density was investigated using Mixed-effects models and epidemiological parameters such as the basic reproduction number (R0), the incubation and infectious period and the serial interval were estimated. A total of 4,632 animal rabies cases were reported, mainly in dogs (99.0%, 4,584 cases) during two epidemics from 1914 to 1921, and 1922 to 1933 respectively. The second epidemic was larger (3,705 cases) than the first (879 cases), but had a lower R0 (1.50 versus 2.42). The first epidemic was controlled through capture of stray dogs and tethering of pet dogs. Dog mass vaccination began in 1923, with campaigns to capture stray dogs. Rabies in Osaka Prefecture was finally eliminated in 1933. A total of 3,805 rabid dog-bite injuries, and 75 human deaths were reported. The relatively low incidence of human rabies, high ratio of post-exposure vaccines (PEP) and bite injuries by rabid dogs (minimum 6.2 to maximum 73.6, between 1924 and 1928), and a decline in the proportion of bite victims that developed hydrophobia over time (slope = -0.29, se = 3, p < 0.001), indicated that increased awareness and use of PEP might have prevented disease. Although significantly more dog rabies cases were detected at higher human population densities (slope = 0.66, se = 0.03, p < 0.01), there were fewer dog rabies cases detected per capita (slope = -0.34, se = 0.03, p < 0.01). We suggest that the combination of mass vaccination and restriction of dog movement enabled by strong legislation was key to eliminate rabies. Moreover, the prominent role of the media in both reporting rabies cases and efforts to control the disease likely contributed to promoting the successful participation required to achieve rabies elimination.