Two siblings infected with the rabies virus in Serian district have passed away at the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) on 4 July, according to Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian.

The six-year-old girl, died at 1.43pm, followed by her younger brother three minutes later. Both siblings, from Kampung Paon, Sungai Rimu, were earlier diagnosed as brain dead and their parents agreed for the life support to be withdrawn.

A separate case of rabies from Serian, which borders Kalimantan in Indonesia, is a seven-year-old girl from Kampung Lebur, Gedong, who developed a fever on 23 June and was taken to the district hospital, where she consequently received outpatient treatment.

She is currently "still ventilated and categorised as critically ill," said Dr Sim.

ACD activities carried out at affected areas

All three children were initially treated at the Serian District Hospital before being transferred to the SGH on suspicion of viral encephalitis and placed in the intensive care unit.

The Medical Department later confirmed that the trio were bitten by dogs two to three months ago.

Currently, Dr Sim said 11 health teams are still carrying out Active Case Detection (ACD) activities at the affected areas in Serian district.

"As of today 19 villages have been visited, covering 2,098 houses and 6,094 people have been reviewed," he added.

Rabies-related health education activities and preventive measures have been implemented by the ACD teams at affected villages.

The cumulative number of dog-bite cases in the outbreak area of Serian District from 1 April until 4 July, is at 68 cases, Dr Sim remarked.

However, he was unable to disclose if any other dog-bite cases have developed symptoms linked to rabies.

“Stay away from wild animals to decrease the risk of getting bitten. If you are bitten by a dog, make sure the wound is washed thoroughly with plenty of water and soap immediately and go to the clinic or hospital as soon as possible for further management,” Dr Sim advised.

Vaccines deployed to curb spread of disease

The Veterinary Department has also sent 6,000 doses of the rabies vaccine to Sarawak to contain the spread of the disease since 4 July.

The vaccine would be given to uninfected dogs and cats within a 10 kilometre radius of the two affected villages ̶ Kampung Paon in Sungai Rimu and Kampung Lebur Gedung ̶ with four veterinary officers to assist the Sarawak Veterinary Department.

“We seek the co-operation of all dog owners and we urge them to have their dogs vaccinated as soon as possible to help contain this outbreak in the shortest possible time,” said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah.

“In the meantime, we are tightening the borders. We are now deploying the police and army to stop any transfer of dogs or cats from Kalimantan (Indonesia),” he added.

For inquiries about rabies, the public can call the state Health Department’s hotline at 082-443 248 or 441 780. MIMS

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