No new cases of rabies infection have been reported and the situation is now under control, according to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam. The number of rabies cases in the recent outbreak remains at five.

This comes after a six-year-old child in Melaka allegedly showed symptoms of rabies. The child has been tested negative and discharged from Melaka Hospital.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) however, expressed that it would continue to monitor the state of health of such patients—who displayed symptoms of rabies infection, but tested negative—for at least three weeks to six months to ensure they are virus-free.

The outbreak has seen five casualties over the past month, with a brother-sister pair succumbing to the disease on 4 July, a seven-year old girl on 13 July and a five-year-old girl on 17 July. The fifth case involves a 52-year-old man who passed away on 23 July. 

Two more areas have also been declared as rabies-infected — Kampung Entubuh, Tebedu, in Serian district, and Batu 5, Jalan Semeba, just at the outskirt of Kuching city — bringing the total number of infected areas to 20 in Sarawak.

Precautionary and reactive measures introduced at schools

Dr Subramaniam said that the MOH would work together with the Department of Veterinary Services (DVS) to continue running inspections on stray and pet dogs and cats—in an attempt to control the spread of the disease.

"The ministry is not directly involved in the animals' vaccination as this is under the purview of the DVS... they have their standard operating procedures (SOP) for vaccination of animals,” he added.

In Serian, about 28 schools within a radius of ten kilometres from the Serian District have been briefed on the outbreak of rabies by the Sarawak DVS and the Sarawak Health Department.

Explanations are given about the symptoms of a dog infected with rabies and reactive measures are introduced to students.

Collaborating with Indonesia to curb the spread

Across the Indonesian border, 13 lives have been taken since 11 July in several areas in neighbouring Kalimantan Barat. Serian and Kalimantan Barat share a common border.

There are also 423 reported cases at the province of Sanggau and eight deaths. Sintang, which is also close by, reported 219 cases with three fatalities and Hulu Kapuas registered 104 cases.

The Malaysian government suspects that the outbreak began in Kalimantan Barat and spread to Serian as passage across the border is easy.

As such, Sarawak is seeking collaboration with the Indonesian authorities to create a buffer zone between the villages of Sarawak and Kalimantan Barat, at border areas.

The meeting between an Indonesian consulate and Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas occurs on 21 July.

"We want to collaborate with the Indonesian authorities to tackle the spread of rabies, because based on records that we have, there were dogs that came from the other side to our villages," elaborated Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Openg.

Federal and state governments committed to contain disease

RM3 million has also been allocated to contain the spread of rabies in Sarawak. Abang Johari expressed both federal and state governments were fully committed in containing the disease.

"The federal government is helping us, and has spent about RM2.4 million to buy vaccines for humans.

"On our part, we have allocated about RM500,000 to purchase vaccine and equipment for the front-liners because we believe they must also be protected," he said.

He added that the vaccines received from the federal government would be able to prevent people from being infected by rabies. MIMS

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