SIBU: Sarawak recorded an alarming figure of 88,606 animal bites since 2017.

Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg said that even though not all of the cases are bitten by rabid animals, the high number is still a concern.

He said the total number of human rabies cases in Sarawak is 72 with 65 (90.3 per cent) deaths since 2017.

“I sincerely hope this number will not increase in the near future,” he said at the opening of the Asia-Pacific Conference on Zoonotic and Neglected Tropical Disease 2023 here today.

His speech text was read out by Sarawak Deputy Minister for Public Health, Housing and Local Government II Michael Tiang Ming Tee.

The premier said the average life expectancy for Sarawak is 76.5 years, among the highest in Malaysia, indicating a healthy population and good healthcare service.

However, the region is still faced with the threat of Rabies, and many other zoonotic diseases like monkey malaria and leptospirosis.

The premier said the Sarawak government is also committed to building the Sarawak Infectious Disease Centre (SIDC).

The research facility costing RM200 million located close to Sarawak Heart Centre in Samarahan will have a world-class BSL3 (Biosafety Level 3) laboratory, which will greatly enhance research into infectious diseases.

Lauding the conference, Abang Johari said discussions and presentations about diseases, new knowledge and greater awareness, new collaborations and networking will develop which will bring immediate benefits to health in Sarawak and in the long term, will develop Sarawak as the regional centre of knowledge and teaching for zoonotic and neglected tropical diseases.

Themed “Global One Health: From Concept to Reality”, the conference among others aimed at raising awareness among healthcare professionals and the public towards zoonotic and neglected tropical diseases and to enable the sharing of information among experts internationally and locally towards prevention, control and treatment of zoonotic and neglected tropical diseases.

It was attended by almost 500 participants from various countries. -Bernama

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