According to Malaysian health officials, at least 12 cases of human rabies, including 11 fatal cases, have been reported throughout Sarawak between June 2017 and August 2018. The latest related fatality was reported at Sarawak General Hospital on Saturday, August 18. A possible 13th case of rabies was also admitted to Serawak General Hospital two days prior, on August 16.
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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