ILOILO – The lower the dog rabies vaccination coverage, the higher the risk of the public being exposed to the rabies virus, warned the Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO).
Year 2019 is ending in two months but according to Dr. Darel Tabuada of the PVO, their dog rabies vaccination coverage is so far at 20 percent only.
“The 20 percent is equivalent to 52,945 dogs out of the 258,403 total dog population of the province,” said Tabuada.
The low rabies vaccination coverage is due to the limited vaccine supply from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), he explained.
“Last year ang rabies vaccine allocation from BAI is around 17 vials good for 170,000 dogs. This year, BAI released to us only 500 vials good for 5,000 dogs,” said Tabuada.
This year’s dog rabies vaccination coverage target is 70 percent, equivalent to 170,000 dogs.
“If there are many rabid dogs, the chances of them biting humans arehigh. Ginatan-aw naton nga maga-increase ang aton rabies-related human deaths,” said Tabuada.
The PVO has so far recorded four such deaths this year.
Rabies primarily affects warm-blooded animals other than man, notably dogs, cats, rats, and bats, but which can be transmitted to humans by infected animals. The rabies virus, which is present in the saliva of an infected animal, is passed to a human through a bite, or rarely, when the animal’s saliva gets in contact with a scratch or fresh break in the skin.
On top of the rabies vaccine supply from BAI, said Tabuada, said the provincial government purchased 1,300 vials good for 13,000 dogs.
But “tama gid kagamay,” saidTabuada.
Last year, PVO’s dog rabies vaccination coverage (January to October) was at 69 percent equivalent to 173,672 dogs.
Tabuada proposed that for year 2020 local government units should contribute to the PVO’s rabies vaccine supply.
“Mangayo kami sa mga banwa sang support. At least makahatag man sila para mabakunahan ang dogs nila,” said Tabuada.
The PVO would also lobby for a budget of P4 million solely for the procurement of rabies vaccines, he added.
The dearth of anti-rabies vaccines, however, is not confined to Iloilo province; it is a regionwide concern, according to the Department of Health (DOH) in Western Visayas.
“May shortage kita both sa canine and human vaccines. Indi pa gid stable ang aton supply,” said Ame Liz Mardoquio, DOH Region 6’s coordinator for the Rabies Prevention and Control Program.
For this year, the region’s required total number of vials of human vaccine is 149,408 or 37,352 vials per quarter. However, said Mardoquio, the region only got 29,084 vials (27,000 from the DOH central office and 2,000 purchased by its regional office).
Rabies, while fatal, is preventable with vaccination, stressed Dr. Marie Jocelyn Te, also of DOH-6’s Rabies Prevention and Control Program.
The rabies virus primarily affects the central nervous system. The early symptoms of rabies in people are similar to those of many other infection — fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort.
As the disease progresses, more specific symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, salivation, difficulty in swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water).
In 2018, DOH-6 recorded a total of 17 human rabies deaths throughout Western Visayas.
The Philippines is among the top 10 countries with the highest incidence of rabies in the world. DOH estimates that about 100,000 Filipinos are treated for dog bites and 200 to 300 die from rabies annually.
Among Filipinos, dogs account for 98 percent of rabies infection, cats account for the remaining two percent, according to DOH.
An infected dog can transmit the rabies virus even before it becomes ill, but it will invariably manifest signs and symptoms of rabies including change in behavior such as unprovoked aggressiveness and excitability, paralysis, and hydrophobia within five days, and die within two weeks, after it gets infected./PN