THE death of a 62-year-old man in Sarawak due to rabies is really sad. This brings the total number of rabies cases to 24, with 23 deaths, since the outbreak of the disease was declared on July 1,2017.
Obviously, the state’s rabies control and eradication programme has not been very successful.
Last year, it was rather surprising for the Sarawak State Veterinary Department to declare that an all-out rabies eradication and control programme would only be launched in 2020 when time was of the essence.
Delay in vaccinating dogs would result in higher cross-infection and spread of the disease over wider areas, making it even more difficult to control. On the other hand, the faster the control measures are implemented, the faster the disease can be brought under control.
I believe that a comprehensive and coordinated rabies control and eradication programme must involve the following teams:
1. Education and awareness teams to educate and instil public awareness and cooperation on the importance of the rabies control programmes. The team should inculcate proper and responsible dog/pet-keeping protocols among pet owners; educate the general public on the rabies disease and the risk of zoonotic infections to human beings; and publicise information on how people can help to control and eradicate rabies.
2. Investigative teams to study cases of bites from animals (dogs, cats, primates, etc) and work with hospitals and clinics in the course of their investigations;
3. Vaccination teams;
4. Dog destruction teams;
5. Sampling teams to determine the prevalence and status of disease in the area;
6. Surveillance teams; and
7. Epidemiology investigation teams to investigate all rabies cases, ascertain the possible causes of the spread and come up with the necessary control measures.
A rabies control operation centre equipped with a hotline must also be set up. The centre should collect and keep daily reports of all the activities pertaining to the rabies control efforts.
Regular meetings to discuss any shortcomings that prevent the successful implementation of the rabies control and eradication programme should also be held.
I am concerned for the welfare, well-being and safety of our fellow Malaysians in Sarawak.
HCS is a reader from Bukit Mertajam. This letter first appeared in The Star.