KUCHING: Sarawak will review its anti-rabies strategies during a three-day workshop to be held here starting Jan 16.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah said the workshop would look at the current strategies with a view to enhancing them or developing new ones in the fight against the outbreak which started in mid-2017.
He said all relevant agencies, including the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma), police, military, Rela and the Sabah and Putrajaya veterinary services departments, would take part in it.
"There is a need to end the outbreak, which is now affecting 60 areas statewide except in Limbang division.
"The deadly disease is still with us after it was first detected on July 1, 2017, in Kampung Paon Ribuh in Serian," Uggah said after chairing a state steering committee on rabies here on Friday (Jan 11).
To date, 15 people have died from rabies while a sole survivor is in a comatose state.
Uggah said the fight against rabies was "very challenging" because of Sarawak's large size and its porous border with Kalimantan, Indonesia, where the disease was believed to have spread from.
"In addition, there are many dogs, including stray ones, in plantations deep in the interior or close to the border," he said.
He urged dog owners to get their pets vaccinated against rabies annually.
"Unfortunately, lately there is a lackadaisical response from dog owners toward our vaccination programme.
"We appeal to them to come forward to get their pets vaccinated before it is too late," he said.
So far 109,216 of the estimated 225,000 dogs in Sarawak have been vaccinated.
"Our target this year is to vaccinate at least 70% of the dog population," Uggah said.
He added that the ongoing vaccination operation would continue as long as the state was not yet declared rabies-free.
"We have received very good support from the federal government. This shows that our relationship with the federal government is still very good," he said.
Nadma director-general Datuk Mohtar Mohd Abd Rahman said the agency was considering an integrated operation, including targetted removal of stray dogs in all affected areas, to combat rabies.
"We would like to appeal to the people to assist us in this operation. Please get your pets vaccinated and keep them indoors," he said.