A 34-year-old woman in Sibu, Sarawak, became the latest victim to die of rabies last Sunday, according to Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
He said the death of the woman brought the total cases this year to four and the total accumulative number of rabies cases in Sarawak to 26 since it was declared on July 1, 2017.
“The woman was admitted to Sibu Hospital on Oct 12 due to sudden weakness of her legs five days earlier.
“She died at 11.30 am on Oct 18 and was confirmed to have been infected with the rabies virus through a lab test conducted by Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) on Oct 19. MOH would like to extend our condolences to the family of the victim,” he said in a statement today.
He said the investigation found that her residential area was close to a landfill and there were many stray dogs roaming around.
Dr Noor Hisham said the victim was bitten by her dog at the end of 2018 but did not seek treatment at any health facility and the canine was free to mix with other animals and was never given an anti-rabies vaccine.
The dog, however, was killed by members of the public following after biting another individual, but no samples had been sent to the Sarawak Veterinary Services Department for a rabies infection test.
In this case, he said the Sibu Division Health Office had informed the relevant authorities to catch the stray dogs in the woman’s residential area.
The MOH and the State Health Department will also intensify cooperation with the state government, Veterinary Services Department and other agencies to ensure that prevention and control of rabies virus infection are implemented comprehensively, he said.
Dr Noor Hisham said the MOH also advised the public to always take preventive measures to prevent being infected with rabies.
Those who were bitten by a dog or any other animal must wash the bitten body parts with running water and soap for 15 minutes to remove saliva stains from the canine and to seek immediate treatment at the nearest health clinic or hospital.
“Makes sure your pet dog gets the anti-rabies vaccination at the nearest veterinary clinic. Avoid letting it mix with other dogs or stray animals before and after getting the vaccination.
“Report to the local authorities if there were stray dogs roaming around your areas and always maintain a high level of personal hygiene by washing your hands right with water and soap after touching your pets.
“And if your cat or dog shows a change in the behaviour like turning aggressive, do seek immediate treatment at a veterinary clinic and report it to the nearest Veterinary Service Department,” he said. BERNAMA