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Sarawak govt taking rabies outbreak seriously — DCM
Posted on : 28 Aug 2018  Source of News: Borneo Post Online

Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas

KUCHING: The Sarawak government has placed the handling of the rabies situation under State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), which shows that it is taking this issue very seriously as a disaster.

This move allows the Sarawak government to mobilise its resources in a coordinated way between all relevant agencies in the fight against the disease, says Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, who is chairman of SDMC.

He stressed that the government had swung into action immediately after the first case was detected and confirmed.

“The first rabies-positive human case reported was on June 30, 2017 – the first rabies-positive cases in animal were (reported) on July 4, 2017. The SDMC (Rabies Outbreak) had its first meeting on the July 4, 2017, after positive cases were confirmed in humans and dogs.

“Operations rooms were activated at Wisma Bapa Malaysia (centralised operations room), manned by the SDMC comprising Department of Veterinary Services (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,” he said.

Uggah said as at Aug 27 this year, 75,544 animals had been vaccinated throughout Sarawak – 69,327 had their first dose and 6,217 underwent re-vaccination.

“These animals were vaccinated by DVS Sarawak, which was provided free. 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.

“A total of 146 mass vaccinations were carried out throughout the state up to this date and there is no let-up, as alleged by YB Chong (Chieng Jen).

“Even our Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi (Abang Johari Tun Openg) attended our mass vaccination programmes,” said Uggah, in apparent reference to DAP Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen’s accusation, which was widely published in the media yesterday.

Uggah also said DVS is 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 spread to other parts of Sarawak. Veterinary surveillances are being conducted at all major entry points,” he pointed out.

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

Uggah also said as of Aug 7 this year, all tests for rabies are conducted in 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 Sarawak RM1,500 per sample.

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

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

“Subsequently, we requested funds from the Chief Minister, who immediately approved the fund.

“That has enabled us to continue providing free anti-rabies vaccination.

“The support services from federal DVS only resumed on Aug 15, 2018,” he explained.

Uggah stressed that engagements with the public and pet owners are crucial for effective rabies control.

“This includes responsible pet ownership including vaccination, and neutering of pets, which would drastically reduce the number of dogs and cats that could end up being abandoned and becoming strays.

“Other equally important activities that are ongoing include awareness campaign through social media, print media, radio, official webpage and various campaigns throughout the state. We need public support in our effort to eradicate rabies,” he said.

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

“We welcome sincere and constructive suggestions and views from any group, experts
and individuals in our effort to control this disease,” he emphasised.


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