According to the Department of Health, there are over 600 deaths attributed to rabies in the country each year. Dogs accounting for 98% of all cases, with 88% being stray, and 10% domestic pets, with cats and rodents accounting for the remaining 2%. A staggering 53% of all victims are children aged 5-14.
The rabies virus, transmitted in most all cases through saliva transferred through a bite or in some cases a scratch, there are rare but documented cases of infection through mucous membranes. Due to alarming increases in fatalities, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act 9482, or the Anti Rabies Law of 2007 authored by Senator Pia Cayetano. The ultimate goal of which is to create a rabies-free Philippines by 2020. This act aims to provide funds for disease control and prevention through the Department of Health and local government units, set responsibilities and appropriate penalties for pet owners, as well as impounding and euthanasia clauses. Since rabies victims are most often young, and since summer is high season for travel and free time for children, March was dubbed “Rabies Awareness Month”, to equip the public with proper knowledge on the disease, prevention, and measures taken in case one has been bitten by a suspected rabid animal.
The rabies virus affects the central nervous system (CNS), ultimately leading to brain disease and death. Early symptoms are common. Fever, nausea, weakness and discomfort. As the virus circulates around the body, more specific complications arise. Disorientation, insomnia, paranoia, partial paralysis, excitation, excessive salivation, difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia, or fear of water. Death follows within mere days of these advanced symptoms.
One should not delay making a decision to seek proper medical help if a rabies bite is sustained. If bitten or scratched, wash the wound thoroughly and apply pressure if bleeding. Your doctor will asses through a battery of tests if you require PEP (post exposure prophylaxis) shots or not. This is typically four doses in a fourteen day period.
Click here to read more about Rabies Awareness Month.