MANILA – Eight municipalities were declared rabies-free Thursday, bringing to 49 the total number of municipalities nationwide with no incidence of rabies in at least three consecutive years.
The Department of Health (DOH) declared Batuan, San Jacinto, San Francisco and Monreal in Ticao Island in Masbate province; Corcuera, Banton and Concepcion in Romblon province; and President Carlos P. Garcia in Bohol province free of the deadly disease.
This is in addition to the 41 that had been declared rabies-free for having registered zero animal and human rabies for at least three years in a row, Dr. Mario Baquilod, director of the DOH Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, told reporters during a press conference for the 2017 National Rabies Summit held at the Century Park Hotel in Manila.
Baquilod said the declaration of municipalities as rabies-free recognizes the top-performing local government units (LGUs) for implementing and maintaining a free dog vaccination program, promoting the use of a dog leash, intensifying community awareness by educating parents on rabies prevention, especially among children, and stressing to them the importance of seeking immediate treatment if one is bitten by unvaccinated dogs, establishing animal bite treatment centers, putting in place an impounding system for stray animals, and promoting responsible pet ownership.
In 2016, the DOH’s National Rabies Prevention and Control Program recorded 209 deaths from 1,362,998 animal bites registered across the country, he said, noting that the total figure is 57 percent higher than the 783,879 registered in 2015.
Baquilod attributed the spike in figures to improved surveillance and services that enabled patients to seek treatment in animal bite treatment centers, which numbered 529 across the country as of last August 27.
Most cases of human rabies were recorded in Central Luzon with 33 cases, Calabarzon 23, Bicol 22, Ilocos 18, and Northern Mindanao 17 in terms of regions; and Pangasinan with 18, Bulacan 13, Camarines Sur 12, Bukidnon 9, and Leyte, South Cotabato and Nueva Ecija with 8 each in terms of provinces.
In the hope of achieving a rabies-free Philippines by 2020, the DOH provides free anti-rabies vaccine for post- and pre-exposure prophylaxis in all animal bite treatment centers, while PhilHealth offers qualified members a package that helps defray the cost of post-exposure treatment.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial reiterated the importance of responsible pet ownership, as stated under Republic Act No. 9482 or the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007.
The law is jointly implemented by the departments of health, agriculture, interior and local government, and education.
“Through stewardship and accountability for our domesticated animals, we are preventing the spread of a 100-percent fatal disease through 100-percent caution,” Ubial said in her message during the event.
Baquilod noted that rabies continues to be a public health problem and is responsible for the death of 200 to 250 Filipinos annually, with children at greatest risk.
He encouraged pet owners to have their pets vaccinated at the designated time.
Rabies is transmitted to humans through animal bites or scratches, most commonly by dogs. It could be prevented by an anti-rabies vaccine, but once infection begins, death is inevitable.
The National Rabies Summit coincided with the celebration of World Rabies Day 2017 on Thursday. (PNA)