Rabies reappears in Malaysia

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Kuala Lumpur (dpa) – Rabies has reappeared in northern Malaysia, three years after the World Health Organization declared the country free of the disease, a senior health official said Monday.

The adjoining states of Perlis, Kedah and Penang were declared affected, following the detection of the virus in 10 dogs since last month, according to Health Ministry director general Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Noor said no human infections had been detected among 39 people bitten so far, but he urged anyone bitten by a dog to immediately seek medical treatment.

Veterinary authorities in the three states have culled hundreds of stray dogs despite protests from animal welfare groups, who called for mass vaccinations instead.

The World Health Organization declared Malaysia rabies-free in 2012 after no infection was found among animals since 1999. Aside from dogs, cats, monkeys, bats and other warm-bloodied animals can also carry the virus and transmit it to people.

The last case of rabies infections involving humans was in 1998, according to Noor.

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