The Department of Health (DOH) recorded 200 to 300 deaths of Filipinos per year caused by animal bites or rabies exposures, prompting the government to strengthen its campaign to eradicate the disease among humans and animals by 2020.
The above report broke the concentration of Maria while she and her friends were busy playing with her dogs one hot summer.
Considering that her dogs were not yet vaccinated and knowing that rabies vaccines are given to pets to protect humans rather than animals, Maria should have been worried about her family members’ and friends’ vulnerability to rabies.
But she feels secure in the knowledge that in the celebration of rabies awareness every March, there is a free rabies vaccination in every veterinary hospital and different communities.
Through the Executive Order No. 84 signed by President Joseph Estrada on March 1999, he declared March as “Rabies Awareness Month”.
The celebration intends to give accurate knowledge regarding rabies and its management. It initiates and leads in the promotion of animal welfare, and the protection of all animals. It envisions a nation that respects animals, practices responsible pet ownership, and protects wildlife.
According to (DOH), rabies is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system, particularly causing inflammation in the brain. The virus is transmitted to humans through bites and scratches from infected animals. However, any contact with the mucous membranes or an open wound can also spread the virus.
Rabies, fatal to humans and animals
According to Philstar global, it was estimated that there are nine million dogs across the country but only one million are vaccinated against rabies.
At least 1/3 of deaths due to human rabies are among children less than 15 years old and about half of rabies exposures are among school children. Animal bite cases have been increasing for the past 5 years.
The disease is usually spread to humans through animal bites or scratches. The rabies virus travels to the brain by following the peripheral nerves that connect the central nervous system to the limbs and organs.
Early symptoms to humans can become extremely ill and comprise fever and stinging at the site of exposure. The patient then experiences violent movements, unrestrained excitement, fear of water or an incapability to move parts of the body, and confusion that ultimately lead to loss of awareness and death.
On the other hand, animals infected with rabies may appear sick, wild, or violent. Nevertheless, animals infected with rabies may also appear excessively friendly, quiet, or confused. They may even appear completely normal. Behavior of animals with rabies may be unusual.
By 2020, the Philippines will be rabies-free according to Resident Veterinarian Janice Olympi Penchon. As part of that target and the law, pet owners are mandated to take care and ensure the welfare of their pets.
The Veterinary hospitals are offering free rabies vaccination as part of the observance of Rabies Awareness Month every March. They bring services closer to the public by going to the barangays apart from the services provided at the Veterinary offices.
It is important that dogs and cats must be kept in control. Roaming pets are more likely to have been exposed to rabies than those supervised by their owners. Loose animals are more likely to have been exposed to rabies and to attack others
Moreover, keeping pets under direct supervision is vital so that they do not come in contact with wild animals. If pet is bitten by a wild animal, veterinary assistance is needed for the animal right away.
The pet owners have to keep vaccinations up to date as a requirement. It is significant not only to keep your pets from getting rabies, but also to provide a barrier of protection for you.
“We strongly encourage the people to have their pets vaccinated and updated and that should be maintained yearly,” ended Penchon. //Angela W. Nilva