Rabies continues to be a public health problem in the Philippines with an incidence rate that is considered one of the highest in the world.
A total of 1,176 rabies cases were reported from Jan. 1, 2014 to June 30, 2018, majority of which were recorded in Central Luzon (185), Calabarzon (172) and Soccsksargen (110), data from the Department of Health showed.
According to Nicole Perreras, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, rabies is 100-percent fatal once the symptoms appear, thus the urgent need for treatment if one had been been bitten or scratched by a stray or even a pet dog or cat.
Dogs are responsible for as much as 99 percent of rabies transmissions to humans with about 200 to 250 individuals dying each year due to rabies.
Patients that contract the more common form of rabies—furious rabies—exhibit signs of hyperactivity, excitable behavior, fear of water, and sometimes fear of drafts of fresh air.
Those who develop the paralytic form of rabies exhibit less dramatic symptoms wherein the muscles gradually become paralyzed.
Perreras cited a number of factors that contribute to high cases of human rabies in the Philippines, namely a huge number of Filipinos who still do not have have their pet dogs or cats vaccinated; children are not adequately taught how to correctly behave around a dog or a cat to avoid being bitten or scratched; reluctance to seek rabies post exposure prophylaxis after sustaining a dog or cat bite or scratch; and failure to continue the required number of post-bite vaccinations.
“Public awareness and education are keys to preventing and controlling the incidence of rabies. Currently, experts at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Alabang, Muntinlupa are working closely with the Department of Education in conducting lectures among elementary teachers and students on topics such as what quick actions to take once bitten or scratched by a dog or a cat,” she said.
“Another is how the simple act of immediate and thorough flushing and washing of the wound for at least 15 minutes with soap and water could already lessen the severity of rabies infections by as much as 40 percent,” she added.