Since July last year, rabies incidences in Sarawak have made the headlines. Minister of Health Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam have urged the public to fully support the government’s vaccination programme contra rabies. He said that everyone must assume that all dogs in Sarawak are exposed to rabies, so that extra precaution must be taken.
In mid-February, 29 localities in five divisions of Kuching, Serian, Samarahan, Sri Aman and Sarikeiwere were declared rabies-infected. During that period, over 6,000 dog bite cases were disclosed. In latter May, the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee chaired by Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah added Kg Selarat Sematan in the Lundu district into the list of rabies epidemic areas.
Over at Sibu, Assistant Minister of Housing and Public Health Dr Annuar Rapaee also cautioned against dogs coming from outside towns; and urged the public to ensure that Sibu remains a buffer zone for rabies. He was reported to have said, “Please be careful as we do not know if the dog has already been infected (with rabies virus). There were cases in Julau previously where the (infected) dog is from outside (Julau) and not a local one”.
Dr Adrian Susin ak Ambud, Director of Veterinary Services of Sarawak said that there are strategies in place such as mass anti-rabies vaccination programmes, managing strays, controlling populations through neutering, and continuous public awareness campaigns. On top of this, he stressed that dog owners should also make sure that their pets are vaccinated. “Under Section 40 (of the Veterinary Public Health Ordinance 1999), it’s an offence if dog owners do not get their pets vaccinated against rabies,” he said.
Amid the rabies control drive, a new fatality has recently been reported, involving a 21-year-old woman from Kg Joran Bari, Serian, allegedly bitten by her own dog last April 20. According to a report, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director General of Health, Ministry of Health, said that while the victim received emergency treatment at the Sarawak General Hospital, she skipped getting treatment for dog bite the following day. Noor explained that the rabid dog had never been given anti-rabies vaccination.