DVS Sarawak chief assures public of continuous surveillance, operations across state
RABIES is one of the most deadly zoonotic diseases – every year, it kills nearly 59,000 people worldwide, mostly children in developing countries, according to World Organisation For Animal Health (OIE). Based on the information obtained from OIE’s website, around 99 per cent of human cases of rabies are due to dog bites.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system of mammals, including humans, says OIE, adding that the virus is particularly present in the saliva and brain of the infected animals.
It is transmitted via the saliva of an infected animal, most often a dog.
The incubation period varies – from several days to several months.
Once symptoms are present, the disease is fatal for both animals and humans.
According to the OIE, mass vaccination of dogs in infected areas is regarded as the only way to permanently interrupt the disease’s infectious cycle between animals and humans.
The Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) has vaccinated a total of 202,700 dogs against rabies throughout Sarawak since the outbreak was declared on July 1, 2017.
DVS Sarawak director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud assures everyone that the mass vaccination exercise is on-going, but the dog-owners can always go to the DVS office or any private veterinary clinic to have their pets vaccinated.
“Please vaccinate your dog against rabies to protect it, and also your family,” he gave this advice during an interview with thesundaypost.
On fatalities, Dr Adrian said 33 accumulative rabies cases with 31 deaths had been recorded since the outbreak in 2017.
“This included two deaths recorded in Sarawak on March 13 this year. One case was recorded in Sibu, and the other, in Kuching.”
For the record, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had said these two were the first positive cases of rabies involving humans in Malaysia for Year 2021.
Asked about the main causative factor for the fatalities due to rabies in Sarawak, Dr Adrian said the dog-bite victims sought the treatment late.
“Yes, due to late treatment – only seeking treatment when the symptoms had appeared,” he added.
Touching on the number of rabies-risk areas in Sarawak, Dr Adrian disclosed that the number remained at 67.
Giving the breakdown, he said Serian recorded the highest number – with 22 areas; followed by five areas in Mukah; four areas each in Miri and Bintulu; three areas each in Kuching, Bau and Sri Aman; two areas each in Asajaya, Simunjan, Tebedu, Betong and Julau; and one each in Lundu, Sibu, Pantu, Meradong, Kanowit, Telang Usan, Subis, Saratok, Pakan, Lubok Antu, Sarikei, Kapit and Limbang.
Asked about the compliance with the anti-rabies vaccination order in Sarawak, Dr Adrian noted that many people had yet to bring their dogs for the vaccine shots.
In this regard, he reminded dog owners that failure to comply with the order without any reasonable cause could land them a fine not exceeding RM2,500 provided under Section 40(7) of the Veterinary Public Health Ordinance (VPHO) 1999.
“Under this Section, any dog found without evidence of vaccination could be detained or removed.
“Our DVS offices across Sarawak are open from Monday to Friday, from 8am to 5pm daily,” he said.
Dr Adrian also said owners letting their dogs roam freely on the streets could be slapped with a fine not exceeding RM2,500, under Section 37(5)(a) of the VPHO 1999.
“Every owner must keep his dog under effective control, either by confining the animal within an enclosed area from which it is impossible for it to escape, or tying it up securely, or leading it by a chain or lead of strong cord or leather properly secured to a collar or harness worn by the dog,” he elaborated.
Adding on, Dr Adrian pointed out that DVS Sarawak would strongly advise those bitten either by any stray dog or by their own pets to always wash the wound thoroughly using soap and water for 15 minutes, and they must go to the hospital for further treatment.
Dr Adrian also reminded members of the public to be alert to the symptoms of a rabid dog.
“The physical signs of rabies to watch for in dogs include fever, difficulty swallowing, excessive drooling, staggering, seizures, and even paralysis.
“As the virus progresses, the dog may act as though it is overstimulated – meaning, it is sensitive to lights, movements and sounds.”
Dr Adrian said towards this end, continuous surveillance and vaccination exercises across Sarawak would be carried out by the DVS.
For more information, visit Sarawak Disaster Information or DVSSarawak Facebook page, or send texts via WhatsApp line 016-255 7267.