The Department of Health Western Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH 6) reported a total of 27 deaths due to rabies in the region last year.
Noting the third consecutive year of increase in the number of mortalities due to rabies, the health department stressed that the disease continues to be a public health problem in the region.
Based on the report of Senior Health Program Officer Ame Liz G. Mardoquio of the DOH 6’s Rabies Prevention and Control Program, animal bite cases in the region in 2022 accounted for a total of 118,845 with 27 deaths due to rabies.
The number of deaths during the said period noted a 3.38 mortality rate per one million population of the region and increased by two deaths compared to 25 during the previous year.
Most of the deaths were recorded in the province of Negros Occidental with 11. Followed by Capiz with six deaths, Aklan and Iloilo province with four each, and Bacolod City and Iloilo City with one case each.
The report further showed that the majority of the deaths were between the ages of 22 to 50 years old with 11, between three to 15 years with nine deaths, and 56 to 81 years old group with five deaths.
Of the 27 mortality cases, only one of the vectors or rabies virus carriers is vaccinated, while the rest are either unvaccinated or with unknown vaccination status. Only one vector also was identified as a cat and the rest were dogs.
Meanwhile, 12 out of the 27 deaths were attributed to stray vector animals.
With this, the health department in the region is encouraging LGUs to establish or make their respective Rabies Control Committee functional, noting that only 19 out of 133 LGUs in Western Visayas are determined as functional.
Further, DOH 6’s efforts also focus on the legislation and implementation of local ordinances on rabies. To note, only 21 out of 133 LGUs in the region passed and are implementing their own anti-rabies ordinances.
As part of the response measures, DOH 6 noted that there are a total of 86 animal bite treatment centers (ABTCs) across Western Visayas, 66 of which have DOH certification or accreditation.
Apart from these, Mardoquio also stressed that DOH 6 is also working closely with LGUs to eliminate the use of “tandok” for the management of an animal bite.
“Tandok” is a traditional practice, common among rural areas, which uses the method of applying a horn, stone, or wood to the bite wound and is believed to absorb the rabies virus.
Per the DOH report, some bite victims seek the “tandok” application which is an unsafe and risky practice, noting that many of the human deaths due to rabies sought the alternative method but did not seek medical interventions like Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
All concerned government agencies and LGUs are guided by the National Rabies Prevention and Control Program, as mandated by the Republic Act No. 9482 or the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007, which envisions declaring the country to be rabies-free by the year 2030.
Since 2013, DOH 6 and DA 6 have already declared 29 rabies-free areas in Western Visayas with most of which are from Iloilo province with 27 areas, and Aklan and Antique with one area each.
To further highlight the campaign, September 28 of every year is declared as World Rabies Day to raise awareness about prevention and to highlight progress in defeating rabies.