A farmer, Stewart Michael Sandah, 55, chaining his dog in his yard at Kampung Paon Sungai Rimo, Serian, which is located about 80 kilometers from Kuching today. The Sarawak Health Department has declared a 'health alert' in the Serian district after three children reported being infected with the rabies virus. Bernama Photo

KUCHING: All stray cats and dogs will be captured and observed for rabies infection, Sarawak Veterinary Services Department said today, after an outbreak spread through the Serian district recently.

The measures, according to the department's acting director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud, will be conducted in line with the protocol for the prevention and control of rabies in the country.

He advised dog and cat owners in the affected areas to keep their pets within their compound or the animals would be captured for observation of rabies.

"The department, together with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including the Resident Office, District Office as well as local authorities, will carry out house-to-house survey and vaccinate the dogs and cats in the affected areas to prevent further spread.

"Epidemiological surveillance will be carried out within a 6km radius from the infected areas to monitor and control the possibility of the outbreak spreading to other areas.

"Control on the entry of animals at all border points by the department will be tightened to prevent new sources of rabies outbreak," he said.

Dr Adrian urged those who were bitten by dogs to seek immediate treatment and also inform the nearest veterinary offices.

Rabies, he said, is a zoonotic disease caused by a virus mainly through dog bites and primarily transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal.

"Infection occurs primarily via bite wounds, or infected saliva entering an open cut or wound or mucous membrane, such as those in the mouth, nasal cavity or eyes.

"Dogs infected with rabies are usually aggressive, showing excessive salivation and may attack human without any provocation."

The Health Ministry on Friday confirmed that three children including two siblings from Kampung Paon Sungai Rimu Bakung and Kampung Lebur, Gedong in Serian District had been infected with rabies.

The siblings are a four-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl while the third victim is a seven-year-old girl.