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Editor’s note: Date for the integrated ops amended.
By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Feb 26: The first integrated operation to contain rabies in Sarawak, which will include vaccination as well as targeted removal of stray and free-roaming dogs, will be carried out from March 1 to 10, with Lundu and Bau as areas of focus.
State Disaster Management Committee chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas emphasised that this pilot project would only cover Lundu and Bau areas and not across the state as speculated.
“More importantly, guns or bullets will not be used in the targeted removal of the dogs in the operation even though it will involve the police and military. We will be using tranquilisers.
“Moreover, the community leaders have been tasked to identify the dogs without owners,” he told a press conference after chairing the committee’s meeting to coordinate the operation at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here today.
The operation is initiated after the rabies outbreak, which began in July 2017, was declared a ‘Stage 2 Disaster’ in the state on Jan 11 this year.
“It was envisioned that the operation would be carried out throughout Sarawak. That is not true because before this operation is being launched, we have directed the Resident Offices in Lundu and Bau to engage the local populace in the two areas to inform them about this operation.”
While pointing out that the dog ownership culture in rural villages differed from that in towns and cities, Uggah, however, assured that the locals had been engaged to make sure they understood the objectives and processes of the operation.
Roughly 450 personnel (excluding drivers) comprising the police, army, Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba), Civil Defence Force, Department of Veterinary Services (DVS), Ministry of Local Government and Housing and Sarawak Forestry Corporation (SFC) will be involved in the operation, while the District Offices and Operation Control Centre will serve as secretariats.
The ‘Stage 2 Disaster’ declaration had allowed all government agencies to pool their resources and work together to contain the disease, which has so far spread to 61 areas across the state and killed 16 of 17 infected human victims.
“Our objectives of this operation is to make sure that 100 per cent of the dog population within the focus areas will be vaccinated,” he said, adding that 80 per cent of the dogs in the areas has been vaccinated so far, with some requiring booster shots.
“Through this operation, we hope to vaccinate 100 per cent of the dogs there as vaccination is very important to ensure that we achieve a rabies-free Sarawak.”
Uggah appealed to the public to give their fullest cooperation and hoped that the villagers would keep and secure their dogs within their house compound.
“We also want to advise that no one should take the dogs out of these two areas as there will be a roadblock set up to make sure of that, especially in the affected areas.”
This operation, he said, would be expanded to other critical parts of Sarawak if successfully implemented, after a post-mortem has been carried out.
Meanwhile, DVS has vaccinated 112,141 dogs to date, while private vets have vaccinated more than 10,000 dogs. This figure indicated that more than 54 per cent of the estimated 225,000 dogs in the state has been vaccinated.
The state government aims to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the dog population in the state, which is the basic pre-requisite and way forward to be rabies-free.
“So far, there is no new positive case detected in humans. For the dogs, however, there were 26 positive cases detected up to Feb 1 this year.”
There were two cases in Sarikei, Miri (2), Kuching (10), Siburan (2), Bau (3), Samarahan (3), Bintulu (3) and Simunjan (1). One sample from Kuching has not been tested yet.
So far this month, there were no reports of positive cases in Sri Aman, Betong, Sibu, Mukah, Miri, Bintulu and Serian while Limbang continues to be free from the disease.
Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian, DVS Sarawak director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud and Community Crime Prevention and Safety Section head DSP Ang Seow Aun were among those present at the press conference. — DayakDaily