Sarawak rabies outbreak
The arrival site of the virus in 2017.
|First case||4 July 2017|
|Arrival date||July 2017|
|Origin||West Kalimantan, Indonesia|
Background and spread of the disease
According to the findings of Malaysia's Health Ministry through the statement of the department minister S. Subramaniam in 2017, the origin source of rabies outbreak in Sarawak is suspected to have originated from neighbouring West Kalimantan in Indonesia with large rabies outbreak having occurred in the area.[n 1] The first casualties caused by the virus in Sarawak was reported on 4 July 2017 involving two children in Serian Division; a six-year-old girl and her four-year-old brother. This was followed by the deaths of a seven-year-old children on 13 July and a five-year-old victim four days after the death of the third victim, both from Serian District.
In two years, the virus has taking the lives of 19 people; the 17th and 18th victims were a 26-year-old man from Batu Kawa and a 61-year-old woman from Pending who died on 31 May and 12 June in 2019. Another nine-year-old child victim was infected in August 2017 has been in the comatose state and treated at home. An 46-year-old man from Padawan who failed to inform the health authorities that he has been bitten by his puppy died on 7 August as the 19th victim while his eight-year-old daughter who was also bitten by the puppy are reported to be in good condition and currently under observation after the victim sent her earlier to a health clinic with her case was immediately referred to the Post Bite Clinic (PBC) at the Sarawak Hospital to receive the first dose of rabies vaccine.
Since the first case was reported in Serian Division, further eight divisions including Betong, Kapit, Kuching, Miri, Samarahan, Sarikei, Sibu and Sri Aman have been declared as rabies infected areas. One of the main causes of the spread to other divisions is resulted from irresponsible dog owner taking a dog out from a rabies-infected area without movement permit from the state veterinary authority as discovered in late 2018 with a case of man being compounded for bringing his dog to Limbang Division from Kuching. From 1 July 2018 until 30 May 2019, the Sarawak government had declared 62 areas in 11 divisions as rabies infection areas with only Limbang Division free from the virus.
As a result of the first reported deaths in July 2017, the authorities began to declare a statewide rabies outbreak. In January 2019, the outbreak has been declared a Level 2 Disaster to enable all government agencies to pool resources in a concerted effort to mobilise and contain the spread of the disease with vaccination and removal of stray dogs and cats through phases starting from 1 March. With the ongoing outbreak, the federal government has contributed a total RM9.3 million for statewide anti-rabies operation in Sarawak including the dispatchment of various agencies both from state and the federal government including the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), armed forces, police, National Security Council, Civil Defence Force, Health Department and Department of Veterinary Services to jointly stop the spread of the virus. As stated by Malaysia's Deputy Health Minister Lee Boon Chye in 2019, the country Health Ministry will consider proposals from universities or the industrial sector to conduct medical science research on the treatment of rabies. On 4 July, Sarawak Research and Development Council (SRDC) entered into an agreement with Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) to conduct research on quick diagnosis of rabies in the state.
Local residence in the involved areas were urged to give out their full co-operation to eliminate the outbreak since there have been reports in the early phase that it is not well received by animal lovers and groups representing animal rights. The government then increased more awareness programmes, mass vaccination for pets and opening of animal bite clinics for people to seek medical attention and to be vaccinated for suspected of the virus infection after being bitten by animals. A total of 120,353 dogs from an estimate of 210,000 dogs have been vaccinated throughout the outbreak. With the growing awareness, the fourth phase operations for "targeted removal" carried out in Lundu, Bau, Padawan, Samarahan, Kuching, Serian and Simunjan went smoothly without interruption with a total of 6,725 stray dogs and 61 cats have been removed.
The government also began to maintaining an immune belt along the Sarawak-West Kalimantan border where the rabies is believed to have spread from. A total ban on the movement of dogs both in and out of Sarawak along its border with Kalimantan was imposed on 23 August 2019 to curb the spread of the virus with Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah Embas expressed his disappointment to certain people who had been bitten by their pet dogs and cats but did not seek immediate medical treatment despite the many publicity campaigns, talks and statements with radio announcements and reminders have been delivered by the government. Nevertheless, the Sarawak Health Department with the co-operation of the Veterinary Services Department and the local councils are working together to mitigate new occurrences with the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) also has given the assurance that the outbreak in Sarawak is contained.
Neighbouring Sabah have been on alert on the quick spread of the virus and began to maintaining a tight check on the movement of animals since the outbreak in Sarawak. The United States Embassy in Malaysia and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have raised a notice and Level 2 Alert on the outbreak in 2017.
- Since 2015, eight regencies in West Kalimantan, Indonesia have been affected by the virus with a total of 21 people have died. West Kalimantan Food, Husbandry and Animal Health Department Head Abdul Manaf said their region is battling to control a spike in rabies cases with reports in eight regencies increasing to 11 earlier in June 2017, prompting warnings to avoid dogs in the area. He pointed out three factors causing the immediate spread of the virus across West Kalimantan:
- Dog mating season results in more opportunities for contracting and spreading the disease.
- Wild dogs move into townships and villages during the hot, dry season looking for food.
- Dog traders often are unaware of the health status of the animals.
- Joseph Hanie (3 July 2017). "Anjing zombie gigit warga emas ketika tidur di Kampung Paon Sungai Rimu Bakung" [Zombie dog bites elderly people while asleep in Paon Sungai Rimu Bakung Village] (in Malay). Sarawak Voice. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Goh Pei Pei (12 February 2018). "Sarawak steps up war against rabies as almost all infected humans die". New Straits Times. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
- Peter Boon (20 May 2018). "War against rabies". The Borneo Post. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
- "Interim Guideline for Human Rabies Prevention & Control in Malaysia". Disease Control Division. Ministry of Health, Malaysia. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
- "Malaysia: Another rabies death in Sarawak". Outbreak News Today. 10 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "Man bitten by pet puppy dies of rabies in Sarawak". Bernama. New Straits Times. 10 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Daryll Law (11 August 2019). "Rabies: 19 deaths, one critical". New Sarawak Tribune. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Sahirul Hakim; Marlen Sitinjak (4 August 2016). "Rabies Sasar 8 Kabupaten di Kalbar! 21 Orang Meninggal" [Rabies Target 8 Regencies in West Kalimantan! 21 people died] (in Indonesian). TribunPontianak.co.id. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Oliviana Handayani (27 June 2017). "Barking Mad: Rabies Outbreak In West Kalimantan". Indonesia Expat. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
- "Rabies virus in Serian believed transmitted from Kalimantan". Bernama. The Malay Mail. 4 July 2017. Archived from the original on 13 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "Rare outbreak of rabies in Sarawak could have originated from Indonesia's Kalimantan, says Malaysia health minister". The Star/Asia News Network. The Straits Times. 6 July 2017. Archived from the original on 13 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "Malaysia hit by first rabies deaths in almost 20 years". Agence France-Presse. The Malaysian Times. 6 July 2017. Archived from the original on 13 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Churchill Edward; Samuel Aubrey; Antonia Chiam; Matthew Umpang; Irene C (4 July 2019). "Rabies, two years on". The Borneo Post. Archived from the original on 13 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Jeremy Veno; Hakim Bujang (28 September 2018). "Rabies spreads to Sibu, Kapit, Miri". The Borneo Post. Archived from the original on 13 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- Samuel Aubrey (13 October 2018). "Man compounded for bringing dog from Kuching to Limbang". The Borneo Post. Archived from the original on 13 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "Limbang satu-satunya bahagian tidak diwarta sebagai kawasan rabies" [Limbang is the only area not included in rabies affected areas] (in Malay). Utusan Borneo. 3 May 2019. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
- Loh Foon Fong (2 June 2019). "Rabies toll hits 17 after death in Sarawak". The Star. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
Sarawak is still not free from rabies; from 1 July last year to 30 May, the Sarawak government had declared 62 areas in 11 divisions as rabies infection areas. Only Limbang is free from rabies.
- Sharon Ling (10 February 2018). "Red alert for rabies". The Star. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
- "Fed Govt contributes RM9.3m for anti-rabies operation in Sarawak". Bernama. The Malay Mail. 14 March 2019. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
- "Possible research on treatment of Rabies". Bernama. Daily Express. 14 April 2019. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
- Sulok Tawie (4 July 2019). "Sarawak agency, university to start rabies mitigation study". The Malay Mail. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
- "10,514 dogs vaccinated in Sarawak". Bernama. 9 May 2019. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
The total number of dogs vaccinated for rabies in Sarawak is 120,353 or 57 per cent of an estimate of 210,000 while the cumulative cases of dog bite from 1 July 2017 to 3 May 2019 is 25,593.
- Sulok Tawie (23 August 2019). "Sarawak imposes ban on movement of dogs along border with Kalimantan to curb rabies". The Malay Mail. Archived from the original on 24 August 2019. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
- "Rabies Virus Is Under Control". Sarawak Tourism. 1 February 2019. Archived from the original on 13 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "Malaysia's Sabah on alert for rabies amid outbreak in neighbouring Sarawak". The Star/Asia News Network. The Straits Times. 21 July 2017. Archived from the original on 14 August 2019. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
- "Alert on Rabies in Sarawak". U.S. Embassy in Malaysia. 21 August 2017. Archived from the original on 13 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
- "Rabies in Malaysia". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 9 August 2017. Archived from the original on 13 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.