NEWS & FEATURES
Have you heard the woofest mews?
Have you heard the woofest mews?
By ALMA J. BUELVA
DINAGAT Islands was declared rabies-free province by the Department of Health and Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Animal Industry along with 10 other municipalities.
The declaration marked the Philippines' observation of World Rabies Day last September 28 and also heralded the week-long celebration of Animal Welfare up to October 4 (World Animal Day)
Declared rabies-free zones are seven municipalities from Dinagat Islands (Basilisa, Cagdianao, Dinagat, Libjo, Loreto, San, Jose and Tubajon. The municipalities of Agutaya and Balabac in Palawan also became rabies-free zones. In Batangas, the Municipality of Tingloy was also declared rabies-free.
The Department of Health and Department of Agriculture are jointly working to make Philippines rabies-free by 2020.
Dr. Raffy Viray from the health department said they need to obtain at least P500 million budget for 2016 to cover the anti-rabies vaccination needs of all patients.
“We are pushing for more budget next year to fight rabies. We are five years away from the 2020 rabies-free Philippines target. We are halfway there, but sustaining the rabies-free status will be the harder part of the battle,” Viray told government officials gathered during the awarding of rabies-free zones.
Rabies from dog bites continues to be one of the leading cases of death in the country. On average, 200 to 300 Filipinos die from rabies each year. There are 400 animal bite centers nationwide.
The declaration of the new rabies-free zones brings to 35 the current municipalities in the country where the public health problem has been eliminated.
The National Rabies Prevention and Control Committee, a multi-sectoral committee being chaired by the DA-BAI, is tasked to work on eliminating rabies while promoting animal welfare and preventing animal cruelty. The committee is also tasked to increase public awareness on the importance of vaccinating dogs against rabies.
The Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) is urging countries to develop appropriate investment strategies to eliminate human rabies. The disease is mainly transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected dog and is widespread in low-income countries. Pilot programs have successfully demonstrated that elimination of rabies is achievable through mass dog vaccination campaigns, supported by improved access to post-exposure prophylaxis (post-bite treatment) to people immediately after a suspected dog-bite.
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT RABIES
* Rabies is a major public health problem affecting mainly the rural poor and marginalized populations.
* Rabies to continues to kill around 59,000 people every year. Almost 40 percent of victims exposed to dog bites are children under the age of 15.
* Vaccinating 70 percent of dogs in rabies affected areas is sufficient to eliminate canine rabies worldwide, at a much lower cost than post-exposure medication.
* Over 95 percent of human cases of rabies are due to dog bites and, unlike many other diseases, the control methods and vaccines required to tackle this neglected disease are available.
* Vaccines have existed since Louis Pasteur successfully vaccinated 9-year-old Joseph Meister in Paris in 1885.
* Today, 160 people die every day from this horrific disease.
* World Rabies Day marks the anniversary of the death of Louis Pasteur.
Experts urge governments and international funders to get on board to eliminate human deaths from rabies and make rabies history.
DOG and cat owners in the country no longer have to pay laboratory fees to have their pets tested for rabies.
The Department of Agriculture has issued a moratorium on charging of laboratory fee for rabies examination in government facilities like the Philippine Animal Health Center of the Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) and the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratories (RADDLs) of the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Offices beginning February 2015 until December 31, 2016.
Although rabies diagnosis is available in government facilities, there are still unreported cases of animal rabies due to non-submission of samples for laboratory confirmation. The payment of a laboratory fee for rabies is seen as a hindrance because most people in rural areas could not afford to pay the fee.
The DA-BAI decided to waive the lab fee to encourage more people to report suspected animal rabies cases and promote dog vaccination that will help hasten the goal of a rabies-free Philippines by 2016. The move should also help them obtain a clearer picture of the disease situation to support the channelling of resources for rabies prevention and control in greatly affected areas.
"There are a number of people who could not afford to pay the Php 200.00 laboratory fee for rabies examination. In waiving the laboratory fee, more pet owners especially in the rural areas will be encouraged to have their dogs tested for rabies" said Dr. Emelinda Lopez, Rabies Focal Person at DA-BAI.
The agency targets to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the estimated dog population in the country or about 7 million dogs yearly for the next two years.
Rabies Awareness Month, celebrated annually every March, aims to increase public awareness on the risks of rabies and the importance of having dogs and cats vaccinated regularly against this fatal disease.
This year’s campaign draws from BAI's Php 40 million budget for rabies prevention and control, with support from the Department of Health (DOH). A foreign-assistance from the World Organization for Animal Health and the Australian Government which aims to vaccinate 300,000 dogs annually in the Bicol region also helps in national efforts to eradicate rabies.
Lopez urged Filipinos to be responsible pet owners by giving good nutrition, clean shelter, proper grooming, and health care to their pets. She said pets must not be abandoned or allowed to roam the streets unattended to prevent the spread of rabies. More importantly, pets must be vaccinated regularly against rabies, she added.
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