Stringent measures imposed, buffer zone expanded as rabies heads towards Sibu

Uggah looks at a map of Sarawak showing the distribution of reported rabies cases at the State Disaster Operations Room at Wisma Bapa Malaysia in Petra Jaya here.

KUCHING, Jan 2: Members of the public are urged to keep their pet dogs and cats within the compounds of their homes and away from outside contact as the number of positive rabies samples in the state is starting to rise again, spreading to as far as Julau near Sibu.

State Disaster Management Committee chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas said as of Dec 29, 2017, five positive samples have been confirmed, where four are in Kuching and one in Julau near Sibu.

The four positive samples from Kuching were obtained from dogs in Lorong Ketitir 1, Batu Kawa; Taman Sri Makmur, Batu 6, Jalan Matang; Kampung Atas Singai, Bau; and Taman Malihah, Matang. The one in Julau was obtained from SMK Julau No. 2.

“As such, we have expanded our buffer zone from previously Sarikei, to Sibu which is further up. Our teams, with the help of the police, will carry out roadblocks at two points within the buffer zone — During Bridge and Meradong Bridge — to stop dogs from coming in or out,” he told a press conference at the committee’s operations room at Wisma Bapa Malaysia in Petra Jaya here today.

Uggah, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, also remind members of the public to keep their pets securely inside the house compound starting tomorrow (Jan 3, 2018). The committee, with the help of local councils, would deploy teams to capture free roaming dogs — pets and strays — around the city and Sibu.

He added that pets which have been captured would be taken to designated impound areas to be announced later. Their owners can still reclaim their pets within a certain period of time and upon vaccination if needed.

“So we must remind pet owners that our team will be enforcing this programme stringently. Action will also be taken against anyone hampering its enforcement,” said Uggah.

Uggah speaks to reporters at a press conference at the State Disaster Operations Room at Wisma Bapa Malaysia in Petra Jaya here.

Starting tomorrow (Jan 3), the dog-capturing team will begin their operation in Taman Jutaria and Taman Dahlia in Matang Jaya. This will be followed the next day at MJC Batu Kawa, RPR Batu Kawa and Arang Road.

On Jan 5, the team will proceed to BDC, Tabuan Tranquility and Kenyalang Park.

On Jan 6, it will be at Taman San Chin and Taman Genesis in Batu Kawa, Rantau Panjang and Sungai Moyan areas. The following day, the team will be in Singai in Bau, Tondong, and Serikin.

Ugah added that vaccination programmes in Sibu are under way, and urged the public there to visit the nearest vet clinic to get their pets vaccinated.

As of today (Jan 2), State Veterinary Authority records show a total of 42,233 pets (34,209 dogs, 7,979 cats and 45 other pets) have been vaccinated in the state.

Meanwhile, State Health Director Dr Jamilah Hashim said since the beginning of the rabies epidemic in the state in July last year until Jan 1, a total of 5,652 cases of dog attacks have been recorded throughout the state. Out of that, 2,143 were considered high risk of having rabies infection.

“These 2,143 cases or victims have been vaccinated, and we hope that none will show symptoms of rabies infection,” she said.

Dr Jamilah also expressed her concern over the rising cases of dog attacks in Kuching which was higher than Serian during the last rabies epidemic.

As of Jan 1, Kuching recorded 2,424 cases of dog attacks compared to Serian with 2,233 cases.

“What is worrying is that the victims were attacked by dogs with rabies symptoms. Most victims were bitten on the upper body including face or upper arm which is high risk because the infection could spread faster to the brain.

“Also, the bites’ severities are very severe with multiple deep wounds and bleeding. Most victims are bitten by free roaming dogs and the attacks were unprovoked,” she said, adding that the number of positive rabies affecting human cases in the state since the epidemic last year still stood at 6, with the latest victim a seven-year-old boy from Kampung Kuala, Gedong in Samarahan who was admitted in August last year.

Dr Jamilah said the boy was still in critical condition. — DayakDaily