MANILA – The Department of Health (DOH) and its partner agencies called on the public on Thursday to end rabies cases in the country.
The call was made by the DOH in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture (DA), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and the local government unit of Marikina City during the celebration of Rabies Awareness Month with the theme, “End Rabies, Now Na!”
They also conducted a motorcade to create awareness and held a program at the Marikina Sports Complex in the afternoon.
Among the highlights of the program were an exhibition of rabies advocacy video and a “Dress Up Your Dog Contest.”
The activities were geared toward raising awareness on and strengthening partnerships in the elimination of human rabies in the country and declaration of a rabies-free Philippines by 2020.
Rabies is a fatal disease transmitted to humans through animal bites or even scratches most commonly by dogs.
It is vaccine-preventable disease, but once infection begins, death is inevitable.
In the Philippines, rabies continues to be a public health problem and is responsible for the death of 200-300 Filipinos annually, with children having the highest risk.
“None of these deaths should have occurred since we have the necessary interventions to prevent rabies such as promotion of responsible pet ownership, early consultation when bitten by animals and timely administration of vaccines,” said DOH Secretary Janette L. Garin.
According to the DOH, a total of 783,663 animal bites across the country were registered in 2015.
“This is 10 percent higher than in 2014 with 683,802 cases,” Secretary Garin said.
This trend was also reflected in the National Capital Region (NCR) with 83,950 animal bites in 2014 increasing to 131,508 in 2015.
The increase in the number of reported cases could be attributed to the improved surveillance and services which enabled bite cases to seek treatment at established public Animal Bite Treatment Centers (ABTCs) and/or private Animal Bite Centers (ABCs).
The increasing number of rabies cases also reflects that there is a need to strengthen responsible pet ownership to prevent animal bite cases.
As of March 2016, a total of 484 ABTCs/ABCs are located all over the country, 32 of which are in Metro Manila.
In 2015, DOH recorded NCR with the most number of rabies exposures with 131,508 cases, followed by Region IV-A (Calabarzon) with 102,512 cases; Region VII (Central Visayas) with 78,598 cases; Region III (Central Luzon), 71,239 cases; and Region VI (Western Visayas), 65,087 cases.
Since 2008 up to 2015, there were 38 areas in the country declared as rabies-free by the DOH and DA. In 2015, Tingloy, Batangas; Agutaya, Palawan; Balabac, Palawan and the province of Dinagat Island were the latest areas added in the list.
The DOH, through the National Rabies Prevention and Control Program (NRPCP), in partnership with different agencies and local government units (LGUs) continue to implement strategies and activities to respond to this public health problem.
One strategy is the provision of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) in all DOH-recognized ABTCs/ABCs, and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), especially for high-risk individuals and students in high-incidence zones.
Meanwhile, the PhilHealth, through its Animal Bite Treatment Package (ABTP), defrays the cost of PEP treatment among all qualified members.
The DOH last year added Php69.5 million to the DA’s budget of Php40 million to help achieve the targeted 70 percent coverage for dog vaccination.
As of 2015, 3,419,771 dogs have been vaccinated, which represented 44.11 percent of the total estimated dog population.
The DOH also encourages pet owners to have household pets vaccinated at designated time periods.
It also warns the public against approaching stray and possibly rabid animals, aside from reminder to immediately go to the nearest ABTCs/ABCs when needed.
March is declared as Rabies Awareness Month by virtue of Executive Order No. 84.
“Elimination of rabies can only be achieved through a joint effort involving all concerned sectors. Most importantly, it relies on cooperation from our communities and from each and every one of us,” Secretary Garin said.