KUCHING: Sarawak will carry out an integrated rabies operation involving various government agencies in two districts starting March 1.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah (pic) said the operation aimed to vaccinate dogs and remove strays in Bau and Lundu from March 1 to 10.
"This is a pilot project which covers only Lundu and Bau. We have directed the district offices to engage the local population in these two areas to make sure that they understand the operation.
"Our objectives is firstly to make sure that 100% of dogs within these two areas will be vaccinated. At the moment about 80% have already been vaccinated.
"Secondly, we are targeting removal of stray dogs. In the villages, we will get the assistance of community leaders who know which are stray dogs," he told a press conference after chairing a State Disaster Management Committee meeting here on Tuesday (Feb 26).
Uggah said the operation would involve about 450 personnel from the police, military, Fire and Rescue Department, Civil Defence Force, Veterinary Services Department, Local Government and Housing Ministry and Sarawak Forestry Corporation.
He said this integrated approach was made possible after the state declared rabies a level two disaster on Jan 11 in view of the rising number of cases and infected areas since the outbreak began in mid-2017.
Level two refers to a disaster which has occurred in more than one district in the state, with its management requiring coordination and consolidation of resources at state level with some assistance from the federal government.
The rabies outbreak has claimed 16 lives so far while a sole survivor remains in a critical condition.
To date, 61 areas in all divisions except Limbang have been declared as rabies-infected.
Uggah said the pilot operation would be extended to other parts of the state if it was successfully implemented in Bau and Lundu.
"We hope this strategic and coordinated approach will be effective in reducing rabies incidence in Sarawak," he said.
He also said about 122,000 dogs or 54% of the estimated 225,000 dogs in Sarawak had been vaccinated to date.
"Our target is to vaccinate at least 70% of dogs, that is the basic prerequisite to make Sarawak rabies-free," he said.
In addition, he said there were no new human cases since the latest fatality on Jan 18, while 26 positive dog samples were reported in January this year.
"For the month of February, Sri Aman, Betong, Sibu, Mukah, Miri, Bintulu and Serian divisions have not witnessed any positive dog cases," he added.