Friday, July 30

Addressing the rabies outbreak

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State Disaster Management Committee meets today to tackle the acute viral disease of the nervous system caused by dog bites

World Health Organisation Graphic on rabies. (File Photo)

Dr Adrian Susin Ambud

KUCHING: The State Disaster Management Committee will meet today to discuss on the rabies outbreak, following the three cases of rabies infection detected last Friday involving young children from Serian, says its chairman Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas.

Uggah also said the state government had communicated with the Veterinary Services Department in Kuala Lumpur, which had sent officers to help the state counter the rabies outbreak.

“They have promised to give us assistance. We are thankful to the federal government,” he said in a press conference held during a Gawai Dayak visit by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to his house here yesterday.

Meanwhile, Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian confirmed that no new cases of dog bite were reported as of yesterday.

“There are 34 cases of dog bites when we traced back and all of them we are giving free vaccination. The state government will contribute RM100,000 to buy vaccine for humans, to the Health Department so that they can make it readily available to whoever needs it.”

Dr Sim, however, could not comment on the vaccination for the animals as it was under Uggah’s jurisdiction. On the condition of the three children infected with rabies, Dr Sim said they are currently incubated, adding that their prognosis is not very good.

In order to create awareness of rabies, he said his ministry would come up with a short video to educate the public on what to do when they got bitten by a dog.

“As for Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah’s side, they will also come up with a short video on how to identify dogs with rabies.”

On the joint meeting on rabies, Dr Sim said: “It will involve agencies like the police, local councils, armed forces and the plantation people, besides the Health Ministry and the Veterinary Services Department”.

On the other hand, more than 160 dogs and 180 cats in the areas where the three rabies victims hail from will be vaccinated today to control the outbreak of rabies in Serian.

Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) acting director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud said yesterday the department had on Sunday completed a census on all dogs and cats at the villages; namely Kampung Paon Sungai Rimu, neighbouring Kampung Krait Situbuh (near Serian) and Kampung Lebur (along Jalan Gedong).

Two young siblings aged four and six years from Paon Sungai Rimu and a seven-year-old girl from Kampung Lebur had tested positive for rabies.

“The census of dogs and cats in the three villages are as follows – Paon Rimu (100 dogs and 30 cats), Kampung Krait Situbuh (30 dogs and 100 cats) and Kampung Lebor (30 dogs and 50 cats). The census was taken to estimate the vaccine doses required for vaccination later.

“The DVS will start the vaccination programme on Tuesday (today),” he said.

He also mentioned that DVS on Sunday conducted a briefing, dialogue, awareness programme, clinical surveillance, collection of samples and interviewed the folks at the three villages, together with officers from the Department of Health and Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA).

The dialogue conducted at Paon Rimu was attended by 250 villagers, during which Dr Adrian briefed them on rabies and its prevention and control in dogs and cats, while SSPCA officers spoke on animal welfare.

“The village folks were reminded to confine their dogs and observe them for the next few days (up to 10 days) and report to DVS on any abnormal behaviour,” he said.

He also said rabies awareness programme, vaccination, investigation and surveillance will be carried out within a 6km radius from the affected areas.

“All these activities will be done in collaboration with the other relevant agencies including Department of Health, Resident’s Office, District Office, local council, SSPCA and the cooperation of the local village folks,” he added.

Meanwhile, a reader of The Borneo Post, Sander Plug from Netherlands, shared his own experience when he tried to make sure his son did not get infected by rabies after a dog bite in the Padawan area some two years ago.

Plug is married to a Bidayuh from Padawan. Together they have two sons, and they have been going for long holidays in Sarawak regularly.

Plug claimed that not all doctors and even the major hospitals seemed to know what to do when people are bitten by (unfamiliar) dogs.

He also said not all the needed vaccines are available in Kuching and the one that is available is expensive by local standards.

“In 2015, my son was bitten by a dog in the Padawan area. After first treatment by local physician, we took him to (a local private hospital) for post-exposure/post-bite vaccines (Verorab). Five shots were needed (days 0, 3, 7, 14 and 30) which were only available at that local private hospital in very limited quantities.

“However, the other important injection (Gamma globulin), which contains important ready-made antibodies, was not available in anyone of the major hospitals in Kuching.

“We had to fly abroad to Hong Kong to get these there. Gamma globulin needs to be administered within five days from the exposure to temporarily boost a patient’s immunity against disease, while immunity is built up by the Verorab vaccines. My son is fine,” he said.

Even though Sarawak has been rabies-free for many years, Plug said rabies exists across the border in the neighbouring Indonesia provinces.

To ensure the people of Malaysia and their visitors are safe, he said it must be made sure that dogs are vaccinated against rabies and both the human vaccines (Verorab) and ready-made antibodies vaccine (gamma globulin) are readily available in the hospitals in Sarawak.

“My thoughts are with the three rabies infected children and their families who are in hospital right now. Please make sure no other families will need to go though the same nightmare,” he said.