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RABIES ALERT: Urgent action needed in Bicol Region - DOH

By Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Department of Health in Bicol Center for Health Development (DOH Bicol) has raised an alarm after 12 individuals succumbed to rabies in the first quarter of 2024.

According to the latest report from the Philippine Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response Database, the Bicol Region recorded a total of 12 rabies cases between January 1 and March 9, 2024. This represents a 100 percent increase compared to the same period in the previous year (from January 1 to March 9, 2023).

Among the six provinces in Bicol:

• Albay province reported the highest number of cases with 6.

• Camarines Norte, Sorsogon, and Camarines Sur each had 2 recorded cases.

• Albay, Sorsogon, and Camarines Norte experienced a 100 percent increase in rabies-related deaths.

• Camarines Sur witnessed a 60 percent decrease.

• Catanduanes and Masbate had no recorded rabies cases during this period.

In response to this disturbing trend, the DOH Bicol is urging the public to immediately seek rabies vaccination at the nearest Animal Bite Treatment Center (ABTC) after any animal bite. Rabies is a viral infection primarily transmitted through animal bites, affecting the human nervous system.

Public physician Jannish Alcala-Arellano, the local health support division (LHSD) chief, emphasized the early signs and symptoms of rabies in humans, including fever, sore throat, body aches, hallucinations, disorientation, and paralysis. Proper wound washing with soap and prompt transport to the nearest ABTC are crucial preventive measures.

Dr. Mildred Tianes, the DOH Bicol infectious disease cluster head, stressed the importance of a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach in eradicating rabies cases and fatalities. By raising awareness and collaborating effectively, we can protect every Bicolano from this deadly virus.

“Focusing on respective roles and responsibilities, and streamlining our collaboration in the realization of this campaign, we can share and increase awareness about infectious diseases such as rabies to every Bicolano,” emphasized Dr. Mildred Tianes, the DOH Bicol infectious disease cluster head.

The DOH Bicol underscores that the case death rate of rabies is alarmingly high. Once clinical symptoms, including headache, fever, pain or numbness at the bite site, delirium, paralysis, muscle spasms, hydrophobia, and aerophobia, are experienced, rabies can lead to death.

Responsible pet ownership is crucial. The public is urged to ensure regular check-ups and vaccinations for their pets to prevent the spread of the rabies virus.

The department’s campaign focuses on teaching pet owners to love their dogs and cats, controlling dog populations, improving health and welfare, reducing stray dog management levels, and promoting responsible pet ownership.

DOH Bicol remains steadfast in achieving the goal of eliminating human rabies and envisions a rabies-free country. The establishment of numerous Animal Bite Treatment Centers (ABTCs) has increased access to rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrePEP) in the region.

Based on the Distribution of Rabies Cases in the Bicol region, rabies deaths have increased by 100 percent, from 26 cases in 2023 to 12 cases from January 1 to March 9 this year.

In response, the DOH Bicol collaborates with local government units across the region to intensify the campaign against rabies through consistent monitoring, investigation, and promotion of rabies awareness.

The department also advocates for a safe and healthy community by providing health services and awareness campaigns for rabies response and control programs in barangays. Together with various government agencies, they strive toward a Rabies-Free Bicol by 2030.


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