According to Malaysian health officials, at least 16 cases of human rabies, including 15 fatal cases, have been reported throughout Sarawak between June 2017 and December 2018. The latest related fatality was reported in Kuching on Tuesday, December 11. To date, the Sarawak government has declared 56 areas in 11 divisions in the state as rabies-infected. Authorities have advised individuals to take precautions against the disease.
Rabies is a viral infection of the central nervous system spread by infected mammals, most often dogs and bats. Transmission occurs via contaminated saliva transferred via bites and scratches or otherwise coming in contact with broken skin or mucous membranes (in the eyes, nose, mouth, etc.). If not promptly treated, rabies is nearly always fatal.
The main line of defense against rabies is to avoid contact with domestic, feral, and wild animals (mammals); a vaccine is available for at-risk individuals (e.g. people who live or travel to isolated areas, far from medical clinics) and treatment after transmission is possible if started before symptoms appear.
Individuals present in Sarawak are advised to avoid all contact with unfamiliar mammals (especially those acting erratically), make sure pets are vaccinated against the disease, and seek immediate medical attention if there is any possibility that rabies transmission may have occurred.
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