MP chides state committee for lacking urgency in dealing with rabies outbreak

Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING, Oct 7: Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii is disappointed with the late action taken by the State Disaster Management Committee to curb the rabies outbreak in the state.

Although he welcomed Friday’s announcement by the committee’s chairman, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, on an immediate ban of all pet dogs and cats from outside the state that do not have proper documentation, Dr Yii opined that this step should have been taken much earlier, probably at the start of the outbreak in July last year.

With the first human infection reported in Serian in July 2017, Dr Yii wondered why it took the committee more than a year to start enforcing such a measure when they knew that the disease had likely originated from Kalimantan, Indonesia, and had probably spread through inter-border transport or even migration.

In a statement yesterday, Dr Yii said the slow response meant there was lack of urgency on the part of the state government to deal with the outbreak.

Dr Yii pointed out that initially only five villages in Serian were declared as rabies-infected areas, but it had since ballooned to 41 areas covering Kuching, Samarahan, Serian, Sri Aman, Sarikei, Sibu, Kapit and Miri.

“I want to applaud the target set by the State Disaster Management Committee to achieve 70 per cent vaccination coverage statewide to provide a herd immunity and to prevent enzootic transmission of rabies to humans.

“However, there was little mention of new strategies or even enforcement on how we plan to achieve that over a reasonable timeframe,” he commented.

Dr Yii noted that even after more than a year of the disease outbreak, vaccination coverage was only at an estimated 28 per cent. In addition, the exact dog population is also unknown due to weak enforcement of dog licensing since years ago.

He said certain local councils and jurisdiction did not even have by-laws to register pets, and he blamed the Ministry of Local Government and Housing for the blunder.

“I have constantly advocated the need for door-to-door vaccination in order for the target of 70 per cent to be achieved. Helpful and needed are the weekly mass vaccination exercise at targeted locations, but that is fully dependent on the pet owners to bring their pets to the assigned areas for vaccination and does not cover strays and also those pets whom the owners do not bring for different reasons.

“They could be working on those days or some have feedback saying it is difficult to transport their pets to those areas,” said Dr Yii.

He said through the door-to-door approach, while it requires extra energy and workforce, it would give a better coverage and also a better estimate of the dogs and pets in a certain area as the pets that were to be vaccinated could be registered straight away or, if needed, to be spayed or neutered.

“I want to urge the deputy chief minister (Uggah) not to delay anymore the tabling of a bill, hopefully during the State Legislative Assembly sitting next month, to ensure dog ownership can be monitored through pet microchip implants.

“This is to properly identify the pet owners so that we can keep them accountable and responsible to take care of their dogs and animals in an attempt to address the issue of dog/pet dumping, which contributes to the increase of stray dogs,” said Dr Yii.

He argued that this was important because no matter what decision is taken by the state government to control the population of strays, the issue would repeat itself if irresponsible owners continue to dump their dogs. — DayakDaily