Uggah: All dogs to be vaccinated to halt spread of rabies

Uggah (second from right) holds down a pet dog while Dr Adrian (left) administers the rabies vaccine to it, as Dr Sim (right) looks on at a free rabies vaccination programme at MJC Batu Kawa, Kuching.​

KUCHING, Feb 3: The State Disaster Management and Relief committee through the Veterinary Services Department will intensify efforts to get all dogs in the state to be vaccinated for rabies.

Committee chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah said the government through the Veterinary Services Department will intensify its efforts to provide free vaccination programmes throughout the state as often as it can, even to the interiors of Sarawak.

Speaking to reporters at a free public rabies vaccination programmes at MJC Batu Kawa here today, he said the programme is to be extended to outside of rabies-infected areas including Sibu, Bintulu, Miri, Kapit, Sarikei, Limbang and Lawas, including areas along the Kalimantan border.

He added that so far the buffer zone for rabies-infected areas is still up to Julau, but nonetheless to prevent further spreading, dogs in uninfected areas should also be vaccinated.

As for the deep interior areas, the Veterinary Services Department will take a slightly different approach to reach out to rural folks to vaccinate their pet dogs.

“The committee feels that there is a need to upgrade our vaccination strategy, so yesterday I signed an anti-rabies vaccination order that requires dogs throughout Sarawak, irrespective of within or outside infected areas, to be vaccinated.

“This programme is being spearheaded by the Veterinary Services Department. Those who can’t go to the free vaccination programmes can also can go to private vet clinics, but make sure that the clinics have the required licences and approved supplies of vaccines,” Uggah told reporters.

He said if everything goes according to plan, the committee targeted that at least most, if not all dogs in Kuching City would have been vaccinated by the middle of next month.

The catching of strays will also continue to be carried out as there were still many roaming around the city, he added.

“I think it (preventing the spread of rabies) can be done if everyone cooperates. Sometimes some parties are sensitive (to the catching of strays), but for us the government, our priority is to save human lives and prevent the spread of rabies to humans.

“If everybody cooperates and the spreading has been halted, the World Health Organisation (WHO) determined that it would take between two to three years before we can be declare Sarawak as rabies-free,” said Uggah.

Uggah (centre) speaks to reporters, flanked by state Veterinary and Services Department director Dr Adrian (left) and Dr Sim.

On that note, Uggah also advised the public that once their pets are vaccinated, owners should keep their dogs within their house compounds and away from contact with free-roaming and stray dogs.

He said this was to let the vaccine incubate for at least 28 days or a month before it can be effective.

He pointed out that many dog owners, or even some people who brought strays to be vaccinated, failed to understand that and let their dogs go or release the strays back to roam freely on the streets.

“Even after being vaccinated today, then tomorrow the dog gets into contact with an infected dog, it will still get sick. I think we must emphasise that. Also after one year, the dog needs to be vaccinated again,” Uggah explained.

He revealed that a steering committee will meet on Monday to discuss and determine the next move to prevent the spread of rabies including how to reach out to the rural areas and settlements along the Sarawak-Kalimantan border, as well as a proposal to organise various rabies awareness programmes in the state.

Also present at the public rabies vaccination programme were state Veterinary and Services Department director Dr Adrian Susin and Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian. — DayakDaily