Rabies: 1 fatality at SGH brings death toll to 4 this year, with 3 due to infection from pet cats

Rabies can be spread through animal bites. — DayakDaily.com file pic

By DayakDaily Team

KUCHING, June 11: One human rabies death on June 5 at the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) has been reported, says Sarawak Health Department director Dr Veronica Lugah.

According to a press statement, the cumulative number of rabies cases among humans in the State since the outbreak was declared in July 2017 now stands at 79 cases with 72 deaths.


“Out of 79 cases, four were detected this year. All cases passed away due to complications from the virus,” she said.

Among the four cases detected this year, one contracted the virus from a stray dog bite, while the remaining three were infected by their pet cats.

The three cases owned pet cats, with one of them owning a pet dog. Two of the cases adopted stray cats without knowing the animals’ health status, and all three cases’ pets did not receive the anti-rabies vaccination and were free to mix with other stray animals.

“The risk of pets contracting rabies is high. Therefore, the risk of humans being infected is high as well if scratched or bitten. All cases also did not get immediate treatment or anti-rabies vaccination from any health facilities after being bitten or scratched,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said that bite incidents from cats and dogs in Sarawak are still high. From 2017 until Epidemiological Week (ME) 22 2024 (May 26 to June 1), 56,023 cases of dog bites were recorded, along with 47,258 cases of cat bites and scratches and 1,577 cases of bites from other animals.

“The Sarawak Health Department would also like to remind the public that humans can get rabies not just from dogs but cats as well. Therefore, the public is advised to get immediate treatment at their nearest healthcare facility if scratched or bitten by cats or dogs, including their pets.

“Ensure that all your pet cats and dogs have received their yearly anti-rabies vaccination, and do not let them roam around without being monitored. Do not pick up or adopt any stray dog or cat if you do not know its health or vaccination status,” she said.

She added that while the rabies death rate is high, the virus can be kept at bay through preventive measures such as washing the affected area under running water with soap for at least 15 minutes and seeking treatment at the Post-Bite Clinic.

“Immediately seek treatment from a healthcare facility after being bitten and scratched, and ensure that you complete the vaccination doses issued by the healthcare provider.

“At the same time, do not handle any stray dogs or cats, whether they are alive or dead,” she said. — DayakDaily