Rabies is one of the most serious health problems in the country. It is caused by a virus that affects the central nervous system that leads to death within three to five days. According to World Health Organization (WHO), in Philippines at least 1/3 of deaths due to human rabies are among children less than 15 years. At least 328,459 persons in 2011, and 266,220 individuals in 2010 were bitten by animals. It is among the top 10 countries with the highest incidence of rabies in the world. Region 5 has 26 rabies cases in 2011, the highest among regions. Bukidnon registered 13 cases, the highest among the provinces in the country. Almost half of rabies exposures are among school children.
Dogs remain the principal cause of animal bites and rabies cases in the Philippines. Dogs account for 98 percent of rabies infection and cats account for the remaining two. Department of Health (DOH) officials estimate that about 100,000 Filipinos are treated for dog bites and 200 to 300 die from rabies annually. Rabies cases are usually higher in the Philippines during summer, when children spend more time playing outdoors.
In 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provided support for three countries including Philippines through WHO in its programs against rabies. The program was called “Rabies-free Visayas Islands Project”, its objective was to declare the Visayas Region rabies-free zones at the end of the project implementation. It was implemented jointly by Department of Health (DOH), Department of Agriculture (DA), and the local government units (LGUs).
The main goal of the said project was prevention of human rabies through the control of canine rabies. The following activities were done: mass dog vaccinations, consultative meetings and planning workshops, advocacy meetings with LGUs, strengthening of rabies diagnostic laboratories, providing vaccines for post-exposure prophylaxis of animal bite patients, promoting responsible pet ownership and surveillance.
Rabies prevention is not confined in the Visayas region at all. DOH has a nationwide campaign to prevent it and is targeting a rabies-free Philippines in 2020 by vaccination of all dogs in the country.
Rabies virus infection has no cure when symptoms are already evident but can be prevented.
In line with March as Rabies Awareness Month, Psst.ph encourages you to educate yourself about rabies because first and foremost, the key to rabies prevention is to be a responsible pet owner by keeping your pet’s vaccination updated, making sure that your pets remain in the premises of your home or property, and neutering (surgical removal of male dog’s testicles) or spaying (surgical removal of female reproductive organs) your pet to help reduce the number of unwanted pets that may not be properly cared for or vaccinated regularly. If you see stray dogs or cats, report it immediately to authorities because they may be ill or unvaccinated.
What is post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)?
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is the immediate treatment of a bite victim after rabies exposure. This prevents virus entry into the central nervous system, which results in imminent death. PEP consists of:
- extensive washing and local treatment of the wound as soon as possible after exposure;
- a course of potent and effective rabies vaccine that meets WHO standards; and
- the administration of rabies immunoglobulin (RIG), if indicated.
Effective treatment soon after exposure to rabies can prevent the onset of symptoms and death.
Rabies can’t be cured but can be prevented.
(Courtesy: Explore Italian Culture)
What to do in case bitten by a dog or cat
- Wash the wound or bite with soap and clean water immediately. You may apply antiseptic.
- Consult a doctor or go to the nearest Animal Bite Treatment Center for immunization.
- Place the biting dog or cat in the cage for observation. Do not kill it. If it exhibits an unusual behavior or dies, it is a tentative proof that it has rabies. Bring it to a center like Regional Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, where its brain can be examined for rabies.
You may watch this video filmed by Anna Rothschild of Gross Science to understand rabies more.
Anna Rothschild, A. (2017, 20 July). What is rabies? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=eiUUpF1UPJc
8 Things You Need to Know About Rabies. Retrieved from http://news.abs-cbn.com/lifestyle/03/21/12/8-things-you-need-know-about-rabies
Gonzales, E. (2017). All You Need to Know About Rabies. Retrieved from https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2017/03/28/all-you-need-to-know-about-rabies/
Rabies in the Philippines. Retrieved from http://www.wpro.who.int/philippines/areas/communicable_diseases/rabies/continuation_rabies_area_page/en/
Why is rabies still a problem in the Philippines? Retrieved from https://www.manilamed.com.ph/rabies-still-huge-problem-philippines/
World Health Organization (2017). Rabies Fact Sheet. Retrived from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs099/en/