MOH could trigger zero stray dogs policy to curb rabies in Sarawak

Dr Lee (centre) fielding questions from the press.

By Wilfred Pilo

KUCHING, Jan 25: The Health Ministry will not hesitate implementing the “Zero Stray Dogs Policy” in Sarawak if the need arises, to combat rabies outbreak in the state.

Its deputy minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said such action plan would be considered to achieve its objective of “rabies free in human” by 2022 and rabies free among dogs population by 2025.

“This is our objective with regards to eradicating rabies. The federal government, through the state Health Department, will commit 100 per cent in assisting the state government.

“We have made directives for our district health offices and health clinics assist the state in every operations carry out by the state government to control rabies outbreak through vaccination campaign,” he told a press conference after his working visit to Sentosa Hospital here today.

Dr Lee said vaccines for dog bites at government facilities, supplied by the ministry, is anti-rabies vaccine for immunization. The ministry also provided human resources to help in operations on the ground.

Since the rabies outbreak in Sarawak in July 2017, Putrajaya has spent over RM2 million for vaccines, which does not include human resources and operational cost to run dog bite clinics, he added.

Dr Lee said there are 10 dog bite clinics in operational since July last year. The ministry planned to set up another 15 clinics by June this year.

“It is our interest to prevent further human infection but controlling the dog population is under the state Veterinary Services Department.

“There are some differentiation in term of responsibility but now, because of the severity of the epidemic, we are actually working hand in hand together.

“The most important thing is if we can achieve the ‘zero strays’ situation in Sarawak, then we can eliminate rabies in the state,” he continued.

Dr Lee said the vision was to ensure that all dogs in Sarawak have proper owners and registered to somebody so that there will not be any stray dogs.

“There are many ways to achieve this. The state government have implemented compulsory registration and looking at implantation of microchips and tags to identify ownership of the dogs. This will be carried out in March or April,” he said.

To ensure effective rabies eradication programme in Sarawak, Dr Lee said at least 70 per cent of the dog population are vaccinated annually.

With registration and ownership identification system put in place, the owners would have to be responsible for their pets and ensure they received vaccination. — DayakDaily