Earlier this month, a 16-year-old girl succumbed to rabies at the Sarawak General Hospital (HUS), Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement today, 21 November
According to the Health DG, the 16-year-old girl is the sixth victim to die from the disease in Sarawak this year and is the 28th case since rabies outbreak was declared in the state on 31 July 2017.
"The teenager died at 3.45pm on 11 November, and was confirmed to be infected with the rabies virus following laboratory tests conducted by the Medical Research Institute (IMR) on 12 November," he said.
The teenager was admitted to HUS on 10 November
Prior to that, she had been suffering from fever for three days, Dr Noor Hisham said.
"She was admitted to HUS on 10 November after she had a fever for three days, felt weakness in the lower limbs, had aggressive tendencies as well as symptoms of aerophobia and hydrophobia."
According to the World Health Organization, furious rabies results in signs of hyperactivity, excitable behaviour, hydrophobia (fear of water) and sometimes aerophobia (fear of drafts or of fresh air).
Investigations, however, found no history of dog or other animal bites
"She only had a scratch mark that had healed on the right leg but her family members could not give details about it," the Health DG said, adding that the victim kept four cats and a dog.
And while all five of her pets are in a healthy state and have not shown any behaviour changes, they have also never been vaccinated, according to Dr Noor Hisham's statement.
Dr Noor Hisham said that deaths due to rabies infection are preventable and urged people to take the following measures:
- Wash the bitten part of the dog or other animal using running water and soap for 15 minutes to remove the effects of saliva
- Seek immediate treatment at the nearest clinic or hospital if bitten by an aggressive pet or stray dog, even during the movement control phase of this COVID-19 pandemic
- Make sure the pet dog has received an anti-rabies injection every year from the nearest animal clinic and avoid mixing it with dogs or wild animals
- If a pet dog or cat is found to have changed behaviour such as being aggressive, seek immediate treatment at a veterinary clinic and report to the nearest Veterinary Services Department
- Report to the Local Authority if there are stray dogs roaming the area, and
- Always maintain a high level of personal hygiene such as the practice of washing hands properly using water and soap after touching a pet.
He assured that MOH and the Sarawak Health Department would continue to monitor the rabies situation in the state
"It's important that Sarawakians give their cooperation by taking heed of advice from the authorities, to keep rabies under control in the state. Do not let pets roam or abandon them in public areas," he said.