Rabies cases and deaths in the country have begun to increase, with 55 cases reported so far this year, according to the Department of Health (DOH) on Friday.
DOH Epidemiology Bureau director Dr. Alethea De Guzman said all the 55 rabies cases resulted in deaths.
De Guzman said this is 8% higher than the 51 cases reported in the same period last year.
“Rabies is almost 100% fatal and all of these 55 cases that I am talking about in 2023 are all deaths,” she said in the DOH Kapihan Forum.
The DOH official said among the top regions with the most number of cases are Region 3 with 11, followed by Calabarzon with nine, Region 5 with five, and Region 10 and 11 with four each.
She said most of the human rabies cases were aged 20 to 59 or 54% of the total number of cases from 2008 to 2023.
Majority of those reported cases were among males with 72%, she added.
De Guzman also said that majority of rabies cases reported were incidents involving dogs with 93% from 2008 to 2023.
The Health Department said rabies is a human infection which occurs after a transdermal bite or scratch by an infected animal, like dogs and cats.
It said that it can be transmitted when infectious material, usually saliva, comes into direct contact with a victim’s fresh skin lesions, adding that it may also occur, though in very rare cases, through inhalation of virus-containing spray or through organ transplants.
Asked if the increasing cases are alarming, De Guzman said this could possibly be attributed to the improving surveillance in the country.
“I would not describe it as alarming though it is slightly higher. Bakit siya slightly higher, possible na nag-iimprove na 'yung surveillance natin (Why is it slightly higher, it is possible because our surveillance is improving),” she said.
“Remember for the past three years we have been very focused on COVID-19 and it’s only recently we have space and resources for diseases other than COVID-19 but despite that we need to closely monitor kung talaga bang gumanda ang surveillance at reporting o talagang nagkakaroon tayo ng pagtaas (whether surveillance and reporting have really improved or we are really having an increase in the number of cases),” she added.
De Guzman said at least eight out of 81 provinces in the country have been declared rabies-free from 2008 to 2020.
These provinces are Siquijor, Batanes, Biliran, Camiguin, Marinduque, Dinagat Islands, Catanduanes, and Romblon.
Based on the latest surveillance this year, De Guzman said no human rabies cases were reported so far in these provinces.
She, meanwhile, advised that rabies can be prevented through vaccination of dogs and other pets, as well as avoiding interactions with wild or stray animals.
She said bite victims should immediately wash wounds with soap and running water and went to an animal bite treatment center for immediate action and intervention.—AOL, GMA Integrated News