Protect Yourself & Your Pets from Rabies

File picture shows Sarawak Veterinary Services Department personnel putting down a puppy showing symptoms of being infected by rabies virus in Kampung Lebor, Gedong, Serian, July 5, 2017. — Bernama picture


“KUCHING, July 13 — A seven-year old girl from Kampung Lebor in Serian district is the third person to die from the ongoing rabies outbreak in Sarawak, the Health Ministry announced today. She died at 2.16pm today at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Sarawak General Hospital of rabies encephalomyelitis, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said. The girl had been admitted on June 28 after being treated at the Serian district hospital.

She was confirmed to be infected with the rabies virus on June 30 following laboratory tests.

The first two victims are a six-year old girl and her four-year old brother from Kampung Paon Bakong, one of the five villages in Serian district that have been declared as rabies-infected areas. The two children had been diagnosed as brain-dead and their parents agreed to terminate life support on July 4. The fourth victim from Kampung Lebor is in the ICU of the same hospital.” – MalayMail

What is rabies:

 Rabies is a rare but very serious infection of the brain and nerves. It is usually caught from the bite or scratch of an infected animal, most often a dog. Rabies is found throughout the world, particularly in Asia, Africa and Central and South America. It is not found in the UK except in a small number of wild bats. It is almost always fatal once symptoms appear but, treatment, before this happens, is very effective. There is also a vaccine for people at risk of being infected.


Rabies virus spreads easily through the saliva of infected animals and enters your body through a bite or broken skin. Very rarely is the virus transmitted through licking an open wound. When the virus reaches the brain, it causes inflammation or swelling of the brain leading to the symptoms of the disease. In most of the cases, the disease spreads through dogs but bats and foxes have also been found with the rabies virus.

Source: AboutDiseases



 The symptoms of rabies can present themselves just a few days after a bite, or they might take as long as 12 weeks. Some rare cases report a number of years between the bite and the onset of symptoms. The closer the bite is to your brain, the quicker the effects are likely to appear.


If you are bitten by a wild animal, it is essential that you seek medical advice as soon as possible. When the initial symptoms of rabies occur, they can be similar to flu and last 2-12 days, becoming progressively stronger. From the early flu-like symptoms, the condition worsens and symptoms can include the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Hyperactivity
  • Excess salivation
  • Fear of water (hydrophobia) due to difficulty in swallowing
  • Hallucinations
  • Priapism (permanent erection)
  • Photophobia
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Partial paralysis

What do you do if you have been bitten or scratched?

If you have been bitten or scratched by an animal in an area with a risk of rabies:

  • immediately clean the wound with running water and soap for several minutes
  • disinfect the wound with an alcohol- or iodine-based disinfectant and apply a simple dressing, if possible
  • go to the nearest medical centre, hospital or GP surgery as soon as possible and explain that you have been bitten or scratched

If this happens while you are abroad, get local medical help immediately. Don’t wait until you have returned to your own country. If you have already returned to your country without getting medical advice, it is still a good idea to get help – even if it has been several weeks since you were bitten or scratched. Even if it is unlikely that you have been infected,  it is best to be safe.


Treatment after a bite or scratch

If you have been bitten, scratched or licked by an animal that might have rabies, you may need medical treatment from a specialist to prevent getting infected. This is called post-exposure treatment.


Post-exposure treatment involves:

  • cleaning and disinfecting the wound
  • a course of the rabies vaccine – you will need to have five doses over a month if you haven’t been vaccinated before, or two doses a few days apart if you have
  • in some cases, a medicine called immunoglobulin is given into and around the wound – this provides immediate but short-term protection if there is a significant chance you have been infected

Treatment should be started as soon as possible, ideally within a few hours of being bitten or scratched. But it is often safe to delay treatment until the next day if the vaccine and/or immunoglobulin needs to be specially ordered in by your doctor.

Prevention of rabies:

The following are general safety rules to lessen your chances of contracting rabies:

  • Vaccinate pets: cats, dogs and ferrets can all easily be vaccinated, preventing them from catching and passing the virus on
  • Keep pets confined: ensure pets are safely confined and supervised when outside
  • Report stray animals to local authorities: local animal control officials or police departments can remove any animals seen roaming
  • Do not approach wild animals: animals with rabies are less cautious and more likely to approach you
  • Keep bats out of the home: seal your home to prevent bats from nesting. If bats are already present, experts can safely remove them
  • Wash the wound: if you have been bitten, washing bites and scratches for 15 minutes with soapy water, povidone iodine or detergent might minimise the number of viral particles (medical help should still be sought)
  • Vaccination: if you have plans to travel, especially in Africa or India, vaccination is a good idea.

Source: WHO


  1. Malay Mail Online
  2. World Health Organization
  3. NHS
  4. Medical New Today
  5. Healthline
  6. About Diseases 

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