Rabies outbreak: State targets 70 pct vaccination coverage statewide, currently at 28 pct

Uggah (second from right) showing reporters the WhatsApp number to message with regards to rabies as Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian (second from left) and others look on.

KUCHING, Oct 2: The Sarawak government hopes to achieve 70 per cent vaccination coverage statewide to provide a herd immunity and prevent enzootic transmission of rabies to humans.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said to date, over 85,000 dogs out of the estimated 300,000 in the state had been vaccinated, as the state intensifies its vaccination programme to curb the spread of the deadly disease.

He dismissed claims that the rabies situation was “out of control”, as authorities continue to detect rabid dogs in new areas through intensive surveillance and sampling of dogs in various parts of the state.

“I have issued the Anti-Rabies Vaccination Order, and I have also directed the Department of Veterinary Services to intensify their vaccination programme to also cover the rural areas in the state.

“If necessary, we will outsource vaccinators in order to achieve the 70 per cent and above vaccination coverage,” Uggah, who is also the State Disaster Management Committee chairman, told a press conference at Wisma Bapa Malaysia here today.

He revealed that a standard operating procedure (SOP) on rabies control measures between Sarawak and Kalimantan would be carried out to create a more effective control of dog movements between both regions: It would include the removal of strays in the immune belt.

The state has approved the deployment of the army and General Operations Force along the Sarawak-Kalimantan border for the exercise.

“Local authorities are directed to enforce their by-laws, including licensing of dogs as well as to advise pet owners to keep their dogs indoors.

“Roadblocks will also be carried out from time to time beginning Oct 6 to monitor the movement of dogs,” he continued.

Uggah explained that it is an offence under the Veterinary Public Health Ordinance, 1999, to move dogs from a rabies-infected area to other areas in the state. The penalty for this offence is a fine of RM5,000 or a jail sentence of three months or both.

He added that it is also a violation for owners to abandon their dogs under the provision of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“The stray dog population control will be intensified, and we remind all dog owners to keep their pets within their compounds,” Uggah said, adding that over 10,000 stray dogs had been removed from the streets throughout Sarawak since the outbreak in July last year.

When asked on the amount the government had spent to combat rabies in the state, the deputy chief minister said the state government had forked out RM20 million, while Putrajaya contributed about RM6 million to date.

On a positive note, Uggah was contented that Serian Division, which is most affected by the rabies outbreak, had recorded a drop in dog bite cases as well as the number of rabid dogs. He said this was due to strong cooperation between local authorities, government agencies, NGOs and the public.

“Our control measures have been effective in Serian, and we will use it as a model for other divisions. There were good community engagement through our awareness campaigns, adequate vaccination coverage and effective stray dog population control.

“This has led to a reduction of bite cases and no human rabies cases occurred in that area,” he continued.

Uggah said the Health Department had set up their Dog Bite Clinic in Sibu, Kapit and Miri Hospital. The state government is also proposing a new Dog By-Law 2018 with new regulatory measures for pet management.

He advised the public to visit the “Sarawak Disaster Information” Facebook page for updated information on mass vaccination, latest news on rabies and educational materials.

The public can also send information via WhatsApp to a 24-hour hotline at +6016-2051111 for matters regarding rabies. — DayakDaily