Key Facts About Rabies in the Philippines

Rabies remains a significant public health concern in the Philippines, ranking sixth globally for rabies cases. In 2023, there was a concerning increase in both cases and fatalities, with 55 reported cases compared to 51 the previous year. Tragically, all 55 reported cases in the Philippines in 2023 resulted in fatalities, with most cases occurring among individuals aged 20 to 59, and males accounting for 72% of them. Additionally, seven rabies-related deaths were recorded in the first two weeks of January 2024. Rabies is a deadly viral disease that affects the central nervous system, typically starting with symptoms like fever, pain, and strange sensations at the wound site, progressing to fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. While medical care can manage symptoms, full recovery is rare and often comes with severe neurological issues.

To effectively prevent rabies, it's vital to be aware of the following key points:

  1. Rabies is transmissible among mammals, and in humans, transmission primarily occurs through contact with the saliva of an infected animal, usually through bites or scratches. Exposure to an infected animal's blood, urine, or feces also poses a risk. Dogs, cats, horses, bats, cows, goats, and monkeys are common sources of infection. In 2023, 71% of rabies cases resulted from dog bites, with the remainder attributed to cats. Despite the common perception that strays are the main carriers of rabies, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that 57% of infected animals were unvaccinated. Responsible pet ownership and cautious interaction with animals are essential for reducing the incidence of rabies. Immediate medical attention and vaccination after exposure are crucial.

  2. Following a bite from an infected animal, rabies symptoms may appear in humans after weeks, months, or even years. This delay complicates diagnosis and treatment, as symptoms may not appear until the disease becomes fatal. Seeking prompt medical care and vaccination is crucial if exposure to the rabies virus is suspected.

  3. Proper wound care is essential in preventing rabies infection. Thoroughly cleansing the wound with soap and water, or preferably with iodine solution, can effectively prevent rabies infection. Research in animals has shown that early and thorough wound cleaning can effectively prevent rabies infection. Vaccination should be administered within 24 hours of exposure.

  4. Rabies can be prevented with vaccines, available for both post-exposure (PEP) and pre-exposure (PrEP) protection. PrEP is recommended for individuals in high-risk occupations or those who frequently interact with potentially rabid animals.

  5. Responsible pet ownership is a key to avoiding rabies infection for humans and pets. This involves keeping pets vaccinated and ensuring their vaccines are up-to-date, providing proper care, fostering a nurturing environment, and avoiding situations that may provoke them to bite or scratch.

  6. Completing a full course of post-exposure prophylaxis vaccination is essential, as failure to do so leaves individuals vulnerable to rabies infection if exposed to the virus in the future.

Prevention, awareness, and education are crucial in combating rabies in the Philippines. For detailed information on rabies vaccination in the Philippines, individuals are encouraged to contact their HMO coordinator, or reach out to our Lockton People Solutions teams for more information:

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