Rabies testing: 2 veterinary services personnel to undergo special training in South Korea

Dr Adrian Susin Ambud

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KUCHING, August 29: Two officers from the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) Sarawak have been picked to undergo special training in South Korea to improve the state’s capability in conducting rabies tests.

In addition, the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Kota Samarahan will be upgraded in order to have the capability to perform rabies testing faster and more accurately, said DVS Sarawak director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud.

He told DayakDaily that South Korea was chosen for the training of the two personnel as it is a World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Rabies Reference Laboratory.

“The training is free,” he said.

“Upon their return, they will be able to run rabies test through direct fluorescent antibody technique (FAT) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) at our diagnostic laboratory in Kota Samarahan.”

He asserted that DVS Sarawak had been working hand-in-hand with other government agencies to combat the spread of this deadly disease in the state since the first case was reported in July last year.

Dr Adrian emphasised that the state government had placed the handling of the rabies situation under the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), which is headed by Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas.

In his earlier statement, Uggah reiterated that SDMC had taken immediate action when the first rabies-positive human case was reported on July 4, 2017.

“Operations rooms were activated at Wisma Bapa Malaysia (centralised operations room), manned by the SDMC comprising DVS Sarawak (rapid action team, surveillance, vaccination, animal rabies laboratory testing) and at Sarawak Health Department Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) and dog-bite clinics.

“In areas affected by rabies, officers from the district and Resident’s officers are also on the ground,” explained Uggah.

Uggah also revealed that as of yesterday, 75,544 animals have been vaccinated throughout Sarawak – 69,327 had their first dose and 6,217 underwent re-vaccination.

“These animals were vaccinated for free by DVS Sarawak. The figures exclude those vaccinated by private veterinarians. Throughout Sarawak, vaccination on dogs has been ongoing — almost every day — and mass vaccinations (have been carried out) on weekends in areas with high dog population,” he said.

Uggah also disclosed that 146 mass vaccinations had been carried out throughout the state so far, and there was no let-up as alleged by state Pakatan Harapan chief Chong Chieng Jen.

Recently, Chong even dared Uggah to resign as the chairman of SDMC as he alleged Uggah was not serious in managing the spread of the disease that has claimed 12 lives.

Uggah, in an apparent response to Chong, said DVS was currently doing the second round of booster vaccination in the 650km immune belt bordering Kalimantan, Indonesia, to protect local community dogs.

“Similarly, booster and new vaccinations are carried out in the buffer zone of Sibu Division to prevent its spread to other parts of Sarawak. Veterinary surveillance is being conducted at all major entry points,” he said

Uggah pointed out that as rabies is included in the National Animal Disease Control and Eradication Programme, the federal DVS was assisting Sarawak by providing veterinary officers for surveillance, the supply of vaccine, conducting rabies testing at the Veterinary Research Institute and training for the setting up of Sarawak’s own rabies testing facilities.

He said as of Aug 7 this year, all rabies tests were conducted at Sarawak’s own Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.

“This has facilitated our deployment of our Rapid Action Team to outbreak areas,” he said, explaining that sending of samples to Ipoh for verification cost the state RM1,500 per sample.

Uggah acknowledged there was a gap in the supply of rabies vaccines and personnel from the federal DVS.

“We were informed by the DVS director-general on June 7, 2018, that there were no funds to send their personnel to Sarawak. They then requested DVS Sarawak to purchase vaccines using state funds.

“Subsequently, we requested funds from Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg, who immediately approved it. That enabled us to continue providing free anti-rabies vaccination,” revealed Uggah.

He added that the support services from the federal DVS only resumed on Aug 15, 2018.

Uggah also disclosed that the state government had spent more than RM20 million in direct costs to combat rabies.

“The state views this rabies outbreak very seriously and spares no effort to control and eliminate this disease in the shortest possible time,” assured Uggah. — DayakDaily