The Philippines is currently facing a significant challenge in controlling the spread of rabies, with an estimated 200 to 300 deaths from the disease reported each year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that dogs are responsible for 99% of cases of human rabies, primarily through dog bites. Despite the availability of vaccines and treatment for dog bites, the number of rabies cases in the country has remained stubbornly high in the country.
The impact of rabies
Rabies is a severe viral disease that primarily affects the central nervous system of the infected individual. The virus is typically transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal, most commonly through the bite of a rabid animal. Once the virus enters the body, it replicates in muscle tissue before moving to the nervous system and eventually the brain.
Once the virus reaches the brain, it causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, which can lead to a range of symptoms, including fever, headache, muscle weakness, and seizures. As the disease progresses, more severe symptoms can occur, including hallucinations, aggression, and paralysis. Ultimately, if left untreated, rabies can be fatal.
The course of the disease can vary depending on the type of rabies virus involved and the individual’s immune response. Some individuals may develop symptoms within days of being infected, while others may not show symptoms for several weeks or even months. The severity and duration of symptoms can also vary, and some individuals may experience a period of remission before the disease progresses to its final stages.
Who is most vulnerable to rabies?
With over one million people bitten by dogs every year, it is an alarming fact that nearly half of the rabies victims in the country are children below the age of five. This underscores the urgent need for effective measures to prevent and control the spread of the disease.
One of the most vulnerable groups is individuals who live in rural areas or work in occupations that put them in contact with animals, such as farmers, veterinarians, and animal control workers, who are at increased risk of contracting the disease.
Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those living with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy, are also at increased risk of developing rabies. This is because their bodies may not be able to mount an effective immune response to the virus.
Finally, individuals who have not received proper post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) after being bitten by an infected animal are also vulnerable to rabies. PEP consists of a series of vaccines that can be administered after exposure to the virus to prevent the onset of the disease. Without timely administration of PEP, the risk of developing rabies increases significantly.
Rabies is a preventable disease
Fortunately, rabies is preventable with prompt treatment after exposure. The most effective way to prevent it is through the vaccination of at least 70% of dogs in risk areas. By vaccinating dogs against rabies, we can break the transmission cycle and prevent human infections.
In addition to dog vaccination programs, post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can also be highly effective in preventing the onset of rabies in individuals who have been exposed to the virus. PEP consists of a series of vaccines that can be administered after exposure to the virus to prevent the disease from taking hold.
Public education campaigns can also play an essential role in preventing the spread of rabies. These campaigns can help raise awareness about the risks associated with handling and approaching animals, as well as promote the importance of timely reporting of animal bites and scratches.
In conclusion, rabies remains a significant public health concern in many parts of the world, including the Philippines. However, through increased awareness, improved vaccination programs, and other preventive measures, we can work together to reduce the incidence of rabies and save countless lives.
As we observe Rabies Awareness Month, let us all take action to promote responsible pet ownership, support vaccination campaigns, and encourage prompt treatment after exposure. By doing so, we can help break the transmission cycle of rabies and protect the health and well-being of our communities.
Ultimately, the fight against rabies requires sustained efforts and collaboration from all sectors of society. Let us all commit to working together to combat this deadly disease and create a safer, healthier future for all.