KUCHING: A former deputy health minister says the Sarawak government needs to work with NGOs to ensure all dogs in the state, including strays, are vaccinated in order to curb rabies.
Dr Lee Boon Chye said the virus survives in mammals only, especially dogs, hence, all the dogs in Sarawak must be registered and vaccinated.
He said the state government will need to collaborate with the NGOs to deal with the strays while dog owners should get their pets vaccinated every year.
When asked if Sarawak can achieve its target to become rabies-free by 2025, Lee said it depends on the state government and state’s Department of Veterinary Services’ (DVS) ability to vaccinate all dogs in Sarawak.
Meanwhile, state DVS director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud said rabies is 100% preventable if treated early after a person is bitten.
“However, in many cases in Sarawak those infected did not seek urgent medical aid immediately until it was too late,” he said.
He added that all bite cases were managed according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines where the Integrated Bite Case Management (IBCM) protocol would determine whether post-exposure rabies vaccination is required depending on the category of the bite wound.
“The DVS would retrieve the dog that bit the victim and conduct a rabies test to determine whether the dog is rabies positive within two days.
“In the event that the dog is rabies positive, the bite clinic will be notified so that the victim will be given the full regimen of anti-rabies vaccination,” he said.
According to Ambud, out of the estimated 205,000 dogs in Sarawak, the cumulative figure of dogs vaccinated by DVS against rabies was 190,349 (since 2017).
“This year alone, we had vaccinated a total of 30,931 dogs, including 4,105 in Sibu, where three people had been reported to have died from rabies this year,” he said.
The DVS will intensify the anti-rabies vaccination programmes throughout Sarawak, especially in Kuching and Sibu.
“We will continue to carry out mass vaccination of dogs and to conduct surveillance and monitor the disease situation in the state,” he said.
As of today, 66 areas in Sarawak had been declared as rabies-infected, including the two latest locations, Kampung Limpaki in Limbang Division and Kampung Belawai, Tanjung Manis in Mukah Division.
The virus had claimed 27 lives since it was first detected in Sarawak in 2017, including five deaths this year.