Rabies outbreaks in Penang, Kedah and Perlis

A veterinary clinic employee giving a rabies vaccination to a pet dog.
A veterinary clinic employee giving a rabies vaccination to a pet dog. PHOTO: AFP

GEORGE TOWN • Rabies has returned to Malaysia three years after the country was declared free of the contagious and often fatal disease, with outbreaks reported in Perlis, Kedah and Penang.

Penang Health Committee chairman Afif Bahardin said that an 11-year-old boy in Taman Nelayan in Balik Pulau came down with rabies on Monday. Last week, a 44-year-old man from Pokok Sena, Seberang Prai, was stricken. Both have been treated and released from hospital.

Veterinary Services Department deputy director-general Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam said five people in Kedah came down with rabies this week after being bitten by stray dogs. He believes the disease was transmitted from Perlis, which has reported 22 cases since Aug 19.

Rabies causes fever, muscle pain and headache, which can lead to brain swelling, seizures, paralysis, coma and even death if not treated quickly.

The disease spreads to humans through bites from infected dogs and other mammals. To contain it, some 200 veterinary services workers have been deployed to all three states to cull stray dogs.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng declared yesterday that all strays in the state would be captured and put down. "Also, all dogs three months and older must be vaccinated," he said at a press conference in Komtar.

The order did not go down well with some animal welfare organisations. Penang Animal Welfare Society founder Barbara Janssen said that she disapproved of the killing of stray dogs and that her group would ask its counterparts in Britain and India about other methods of rabies control.

Save Our Strays spokesman April Sham said two cases of rabies were no cause for hysteria.

The World Organisation for Animal Health declared Malaysia rabies-free in 2012 after the last case detected was in 1999, according to Dr Afif.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2015, with the headline 'Rabies outbreaks in Penang, Kedah and Perlis'. Print Edition | Subscribe