53-year-old woman from Sibu becomes latest rabies fatality as death toll in S’wak climbs to 29


File photo for illustration purposes

KUCHING (Dec 22): The deadly rabies virus has claimed another life in Sarawak, bringing the total number of rabies cases reported in the state for the year 2020 to nine, said Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“The latest fatality involves a 53-year-old woman from Selangau, Sibu, who was admitted to Sibu Hospital on Dec 8 with symptoms of breathing difficulties and a cough. She also experienced a sore throat, fever and body weakness for three days prior to being admitted,” said Dr Noor Hisham in a statement.

He said the victim had died from the virus on Dec 15 and her diagnosis of being infected with rabies meningoencephalitis was confirmed on Dec 17 through laboratory tests conducted by the Medical Research Institute.

Dr Noor Hisham said the victim had previously been bitten by her pet dog on the finger in October but did not seek any treatment at health clinics.

“The dog died a few days later from unknown reasons after biting the victim and the case was not reported to the Department of Veterinary Services,” he said, adding that the victim took care of a number of dogs and cats at her home but none were vaccinated against rabies.

Dr Noor Hisham said the latest case had brought the total number of rabies cases in the state ever since the disease was declared an outbreak on July 31, 2017 to 31, with 29 fatalities. The two surviving victims were children who had obtained early treatment.

He urged the public to clean animal bite wounds for 15 minutes with soap after being bitten and seek immediate treatment at the nearest health clinic or hospital, even during the current Recovery Movement Control Order period.

“Please ensure the pet dogs are injected with anti-rabies vaccine every year and owners should avoid their dogs mixing with strays. Report immediately to the Department of Veterinary Services if the pet becomes aggressive or experiences a change in behaviour.”

He pointed out that pet owners must also report to the department if their pet dies from unknown reasons, and a report can also be made to the local authorities if there are stray dogs outside of their house.

“Please maintain good personal hygiene such as washing hands with soap and water after touching your pet,” said Dr Noor Hisham.