ILOILO City – Rabies remains a public threat in Western Visayas but there is a dearth of anti-rabies vaccines in the region, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
“May shortage kita both sa canine and human vaccines. Indi pa gid stable ang aton supply,” confirmed 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.
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.
From Jan. 1 to Aug. 23, DOH-6 recorded 20 human rabies deaths. Nine of these deaths were from Negros Occidental, four from Iloilo province, three from Aklan, two from Capiz, and one each from Antique and Iloilo City.
The island province of Guimaras and Bacolod City, meanwhile, had no cases of human rabies deaths yet.
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.
DOH-6 also recorded 47,257 animal bite cases from January to June this year.
For the prevention and control of rabies as a public health threat, the Health department recommended to all local chief executives to do the following:
* strict implementation of Republic Act 9482 or the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007 specifically on responsible pet ownership
* passage of local ordinances in the control of stray dogs
* control dog population through spaying and neutering
* establishment of rabies control committees down to the barangay level
* increase/maintain dog vaccination coverage between 70-90percent to achieve herd immunity
* procure human and canine/dog anti-rabies vaccines
* advocacy campaign emphasizing preventive behaviors
“We really need to practice responsible pet ownership. We should all target to eliminate rabies by the year 2030,” said Te.
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