The Sarawak State Health Department has so far reported 13 confirmed cases of rabies in Sarawak, 12 of whom have succumbed to the disease.
Local Government and Housing Minister Dr Sim Kui Hian said the battle against rabies involved a multi-agency collaboration, including the state's Department of Veterinary Services, Health Department as well as local councils.
He said the main task of the local authorities was to remove stray dogs from the streets, to create awareness on rabies among the community and to control the population of pet dogs through licensing.
“As of the end of October this year, all divisions in Sarawak except Limbang have been declared as rabies outbreak areas under the Veterinary Public Health Ordinance 1999,” said Sim in the winding-up speech for his ministry at the Sarawak State Assembly sitting in Kuching today.
According to Sim, a total of 20,127 cases of animal bites have been reported to the Health Department since April 1, 2017, and out of the total, 5,557 cases with "high-risk" bites have been given the anti-rabies vaccination.
“Sarawak can only be declared free of rabies if the state remains free of animal and human rabies for a period of at least two years.
“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has targeted for rabies to be eradicated globally by the year 2030,” he said.
Sim said he agreed with the opinion of Bukit Assek assemblyperson saying that removing stray dogs from the street was important, however, rabies eradication would require multi-pronged strategies.
He said since the outbreak, about 11,000 stray dogs have been removed by the 26 local authorities in the state.
On another note, Sim said the Sarawak government was very supportive of the initiative to ban smoking in public places, adding that currently, there were already 23 public places gazetted as smoke-free zones under these regulations.
According to him, from January until September this year, a total of 2,636 premises were checked for compliance with the regulations, and so far the Health Department had issued compounds amounting to RM437,052.