Friday, October 07, 2016

DOH's BILIS Campaign Aims for a Rabies-Free Philippines by 2020

The 10th World Rabies Day fell on September 28 this year, making it a milestone in rabies prevention. Unfortunately, thousands of people around the world still die from it each day, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

with A'quiya, the Alaskan Malamute
owned by The Pinoy Dog Whisperer Lestre Zapanta
Rabies is a fatal disease transmitted to humans through animal bites or even scratches, mostly by dogs. It is vaccine preventable but, once there's an infection, death is inevitable. Scary, right? In the Philippines, rabies continues to be a public health problem that is responsible for the death of 200-300 Filipinos every year, with children at the highest risk. 

Here, 1,463 deaths from rabies were recorded by the Department of Health (DOH) from 2010-2015 with 180 being noted from January 1 to September 24, 2016. Did you know? A total of 783,879 animal bites across the country were registered in 2015! This is 10% higher than in 2014 with 683,802 cases recorded.

The increase in the number of reported cases is attributed to improved surveillance and services that enabled bite cases to seek treatment at established public Animal Bite Treatment Centers (ABTCs) and/or private Animal Bite Centers (ABCs). As of March 2016, there's now a total of 486 ABTCs located all over the country, 32 of which are in Metro Manila.

Health Secretary Ubial with representatives of
partner organizations
I find that good news because when two of my sons and my husband were bitten by one of our dogs (we believed she had postpartum depression that led to her becoming aggressive) back in 2006, our only recourse was to go to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) where anti-rabies meds and treatment were way affordable than in private hospitals.

This month, the DOH, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture (DA), led the celebration of World Rabies Day with the theme Rabies: Educate, Vaccinate, Eliminate, emphasizing crucial actions that communities can do to prevent rabies.

Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial pointed out that rabies is considered a neglected disease because while it is 100% fatal, it is 100% preventable. "Effective and safe medicines have been available for decades to prevent the disease in humans and animals," she explained adding that none of these deaths should have occurred since we have the necessary interventions to prevent rabies such as:

1) promotion of responsible pet ownership - have your household pets vaccinated at designated time periods
2) early consultation when bitten by animals - immediately go to the nearest ABTCs; likewise, do not approach stray and possibly rabid animals
3) timely administration of vaccines - visit your nearest ABTC/ABC regularly until you finish the whole course of treatment 

BILIS Campaign Logo
As part of the rabies elimination campaign, a total of 41 provinces/areas have already been declared rabies-free by the DOH, DA, and Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) from 2008-2016. This year's BILIS Campaign (Bilisan ang paghugas ng sugat, Linisin ng alcohol, at Sumangguni sa doctor ukol sa taming pag-gamot ng sugat) reflects the global target to eliminate all human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

The DOH, through the National Rabies Prevention and Control Program (NRPCP), in partnership with different agencies and local government units, continue to implement strategies and activities to respond to the problem with rabies. One strategy is the provision of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) in all DOH-recognized ABTCs/ABCs and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for high-risk individuals and students in high incidence zones. Meanwhile, PhilHealth, through its Animal Bite Treatment Package, defrays the cost of PEP treatment among all qualified members. 

To know more about rabies, how it is transmitted, what it symptoms are, etc. please download the very informative Rabies FAQs document, here.

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