Rabies-free by 2016? Cases on the rise this year instead

THE NUMBER of animal bites is seemingly on the rise this year based on first half data culled from the Department of Health as government officials called on the public to be more responsible pet owners.

During the departments’ World Rabies Day guesting in Kapehan sa Dabaw, DOH rabies program head Divene Hilario said that the number of animal bites in the first half already reached 18,979, which is coming closer to the total in 2014 which was 33,897.

About 90 percent of the 2014 cases were given proper medical attention when the victims went to health centers. In 2013, there were only 20,684 animal bite cases, but only about 88 percent of these victims sought medical attention.

Gracita Berguia, infectious diseases program head at the DOH, said that rabies is highly fatal but preventable.

Rafael Mercado, DA’s assistant director for research and regulations, said that based on a rabies diagnostic test of brain samples (from all over the region), the department found that there are 17 animals positive for rabies as of August. As reference, when they received samples from the city’s pound, out of the 53, three have found to be positive.

Even the stray dogs that do not appear to be aggressive, Mercado said, could potentially carry rabies. The DA is looking to vaccinate 332,000 dogs in the region as it allocated as much as 170,000 doses of vaccine for the program.

Both the DA and the DOH are targeting to have the region rabies-free by 2016. Mercado said that this can only be possible if owners practice responsible pet ownership. Owners are encouraged to bring their pets to centers where they can get their shots.

Owning a pet, Mercado said, should cover caring, vaccination, shelter and taming.

The DOH encouraged pet owners to have their pet dogs immunized by a veterinarian against rabies at three months old and to never leave pet dogs roaming the streets by themselves.

As for human care, the DOH encourages those who have been bitten to be faithful to their medications. Berguia said that others do not complete their cycle of post-exposure prophylaxis because they do not return to health centers in their proper schedule.

Berguia said that a bulk of the P9 million budget for the rabies program in the region is dedicated to vaccines.

She also stressed the importance of basic first aid knowledge. The common mode of transmission is close contact with infected saliva: from bites to scratches.

“When you get bitten by an animal, wash the wound with soap and water immediately,” she said, explaining how rabies virus travels through the nerves at a slower pace as compared to other venoms that travel through the bloodstream.

Signs and symptoms of rabies include headache and fever, pain or numbness on the bite site, paralysis, muscle spasms and hydrophobia or aerophobia. If bitten by a stray dog and it can’t be observed, consult your physician immediately or head to nearest animal bite centers.

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