Dr Adrian Susin Ambud shows the updates of rabies in Sarawak. Photo: Ramidi Subari

SERIAN: About 168,710 animals had been vaccinated with anti-rabies vaccine in the state from July 2017 until July 6 this year.

Director of Department of Veterinary Services Sarawak (JVS), Dr Adrian Susin Ambud, stated that the department still carried on their vaccination efforts.

As last July 2, 69 had tested positive for rabies infection with 61 cases involving dogs and 8 cases involving cats.

“JVS has identified 64 areas around the state that have been declared as rabies outbreak areas – Kuching (seven), Sri Aman (five), Sibu (two), Miri (six), Sarikei (five), Kapit (one), Bintulu (four), Samarahan (four) Betong (three), Serian (two) and Mukah (five).

“There are only two positive rabies infection cases this year, and up to 24 positive cases with 23 deaths after the official declaration on July 1, 2017,” he told New Sarawak Tribune and Suara Sarawak at Kampung Chupak, Serian.

Dr Adrian also highlighted that JVS also still continued its operations against wild/stray dogs with the councils in order to contain the outbreak of rabies.

Together with the Ministry of Local Government and Housing also with local councils, the dog catchers had captured 4,655 dogs in Kuching, Samarahan, Serian, Bau, Lundu, Padawan, Sri Aman, Lubok Antu, Kanowit, Kapit, Marudi, Saratok, Sibu, Sarikei, Betong, Mukah, Dalat, Matu, Daro, Miri, Limbang and Lawas.

“Often the dogs or cats that were caught were owned by someone,” he said.

Dr Adrian reminded the public to neuter their dogs or cats to control the animal population.

In addition, it is advisable to prevent pets from mixing with strays and also recognise the signs and symptoms of rabies in animals. Look for sudden change of attitude, sensitivity to touch, water, light and sound; aggressiveness, loss of appetite, tiredness, paralysis or excessive salivation.

Animals showing these symptoms should be reported to JPVS at + 6082-628248/+ 6082-610023 (Direct Line Surveillance and Monitoring Unit), or can reach via WhatsApp or message at + 6016-2557267.

People are advised not to take animals especially dogs from unknown sources to avoid the risk of rabies infection.

This is especially important because some dogs that have been adopted were already rabies-positive.

“On duties of confinement and anti-rabies vaccination, JVS pointed out that under Section 37, the Veterinary Public Health Ordinance 1999 it is an offense to let a dog roam freely. To bring a dog out of a rabies affected area without written permission from the State Veterinary Authority would get the offender liable to a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or imprisonment not exceeding three months or both if convicted.

“Dog owners must make sure their dogs are injected with anti-rabies vaccine every year. Failure to do so can result in an offence under Section 40 of the Veterinary Public Health Ordinance 1999. The penalty is up to RM2,500 and dogs caught without evidence of anti-rabies vaccination can be detained and destroyed,” said Dr Adrian.

He also revealed that JVS was currently working closely with the state government to detect the presence of wild/stray animals at the Kalimantan-Tebedu border to prevent the transmission of rabies or other diseases.

“We plan to strengthen checks at the border including constant monitoring in case animals slip to our side.

“Even if that happens, it is important that on our side, all the dogs have been vaccinated and if they got bitten by another rabies-infected animal, we won’t face risks anymore,” he explained.

Dr Adrian believes that with JVS and the state government’s non-stop effort, the state could be a zero-rabies state eventually.