Model Simulation for the Spread of Rabies in Sarawak, Malaysia

Nur Asheila Abdul Taib, Jane Labadin, Phang Piau


There is a growing concern over the ongoing rabies epidemic in Sarawak that has remain unresolved ever since the outbreak began in July 2017. As of today, there has been 18 positive human rabies cases reported, which includes 17 fatalities, and one survivor who is now on life support after a severe neurological complications. Subsequently, the death rate now stands at approximately 94%. This paper is a preliminary report on the simulation of rabies transmission dynamics in Sarawak. At present, research is still lacking on the disease dynamics of rabies in Malaysia particularly in the state of Sarawak. We propose here a deterministic, compartmental model with SEIRS framework to fit actual data on the number of human infected rabies cases in Sarawak from June 2017 to January 2019. The simulation predicts that rabies in Sarawak will persist even with the current outbreak management and control efforts. Further, sensitivity analysis showed that dog vaccination rate is the most influential parameter and the basic reproduction number is estimated to be higher than 1. Henceforth, there is a need to increase the access to dog vaccines especially in remote rural areas with lack of health facilities. Our findings also suggest that controlling dog births could prevent the spread of  rabies from perpetuating in the state. Neutering or using other fertility control methods would reduce the input of new susceptible domestic dogs into the population while Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release (TNVR) method can be implemented to control new births of free-roaming strays. In summary, increasing the coverage of dog vaccination and reducing the number newborn dogs would be the more effective strategies to manage the current rabies outbreak in Sarawak.


rabies; dynamics; transmission; mathematical modeling; simulation; Sarawak

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