Keep rabies away, vaccinate your pets | Inquirer Business

Keep rabies away, vaccinate your pets

VACCINATING your pets has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help them live a long, healthy life as well as prevent people from getting infected with the deadly rabies. photo  by Charles E. Buban

VACCINATING your pets has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help them live a long, healthy life as well as prevent people from getting infected with the deadly rabies. CHARLES E. BUBAN

This coming school break parents are advised to keep a very watchful eye over their children especially for bites or mere scratches that they might incur from dogs or cats, pets or otherwise.

This is because children would be mostly at home or having a vacation in provinces where they would be most vulnerable to bites or scratches from dogs or cats infected with rabies, said Dr. Raffy Deray of the Department of Health-National Center for Disease Prevention and Control as the country observes Rabies Awareness Month.


While the number of deaths from rabies here in the country is on a slow but steady decline—from 257 in 2010 to 187 in 2013, the number of those bitten by animals was on the rise—from 266,220 in 2010 to 522,420 in 2013.


Dogs account for 84 percent of the animal bites, followed by cats at 14 percent.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately one-third of deaths due to rabies in the Philippines are among children less than 15 years old. This is because they move faster and more erratically compared to adults. Moreover, these children usually exhibit too much energy that may cause a dog or cat to become overly-hyper, and accidentally hurt the child while trying to initiate play. On the other hand, a child’s fearful energy may cause a dog or cat to become fearful and show aggression because of anxiety and fear.

No more horrible way

Indeed, there is hardly no more horrible way to die than being infected with rabies. Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal. Confined to a bed and already complaining of extreme tiredness, the patient would soon manifest aversion to water or any drink despite complaint of thirst and having a dry mouth.

The last stage of rabies infection is one of the most disturbing and appalling sight: The patient would fly into a rage and scream like a savage, a reason why they are often tied to the bed. Exhibiting uncontrollable spasms and drooling, that patient will later die due to cardio-respiratory arrest. Rarely would a patient die in less dramatic fashion, in which his/her muscles gradually become paralyzed and then lapsed into a gradually deepening coma, followed by cardiac arrest.

But while it’s true that there is no cure for rabies once symptoms have appeared, rabies is 100-percent preventable if one is previously immunized against it (like if one is a veterinarian or staff working with animals). If bitten or scratched and hasn’t been vaccinated against rabies, that person must receive four doses of vaccine over a 14-day period and a dose of rabies immunoglobulin on the same day as the first dose of vaccine.


Deray emphasized that if bitten or scratched by a dog or a cat, the patient must wash his/her wound immediately with soap and running water for 10 minutes.

Putting anything into the wound, such as mashed garlic or onion and other quack remedies, is inadvisable. In addition, forcing blood out of the wound is discouraged.

Patients must immediately seek professional medical help because the virus might take weeks or months to manifest, sometimes too late to prevent death. “Surveillance and services have improved in recent years resulting in more bite victims coming forward and seeking treatment,” said Deray.

At the moment, there are more than 400 Animal Bite Centers all over the country with around 20 in Metro Manila, including the one at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine in Muntinlupa City and at San Lazaro Hospital in Manila.

The Philippines aims to eliminate human rabies by 2016 and declare the country rabies-free by 2020. At the moment, rabies-free areas in the country include: Siquijor (2008); Batanes, Apo Island in Dauin, Negros Oriental (2010); Malapascua Island in DaanBantayan, Cebu (2011); Biliran, Limasawa in Southern Leyte, Marinduque and Camiguin (2012); Guimaras, Olympia Island in Bais, Negros Oriental, Busuanga, Culion, and Coron in Palawan, and Boracay in Malay Aklan (2013).

In collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, the DOH plans to vaccinate seven million dogs within two years to end its status as one of the world’s most rabies-prone nations.

By making at least 70 percent of the country’s 10 million dogs resistant to the rabies virus, the health department hopes to remove the disease as a cause of human death by 2016, four years earlier than originally targeted.

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“The focus will be on vaccinating as many dogs as possible,” said Deray, considering that immunizing a dog costs only about P20 if the medicine is purchased in bulk. By contrast, treatment for an infected person could cost more than P5,000.

TAGS: health and science, pets, rabies, vaccination

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