March is rabies awareness month

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Rabies is one of the most dangerous viral disease. The virus infects the central nervous system of domestic and wild animals and spread to humans through bites, scratches and exposure to infected saliva.

According to the Control of Communicable Diseases of the United States, all mammals are susceptible to rabies, however, dogs are considered as main hosts and transmitter of rabies in most countries especially in Asia and Africa.

The early symptoms of rabies in humans are similar to many other illnesses, including fever, headache, and general weakness or discomfort. As the disease progresses, specific symptoms may appear including insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty in swallowing, hydrophobia (fear of water) and photophobia (fear of lights). What makes the disease very dangerous is that death usually occurs within days on the onset of these symptoms.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 55,000 people die from rabies every year, affecting mostly children under 15 years of age.

In the Philippines, rabies continues to be a public health issue causing 200 to 300 deaths every year based on Department of Health (DOH) statistics.

In 2011, the DOH recorded 209 deaths with the highest incidence in Region 4A (28 deaths), Region 5 (25 deaths), Region 3 (23 deaths), Region 12 (21 deaths) and Region 11 (19 deaths).

Continuous information campaign to increase public awareness on the danger of the disease and programs on responsible pet ownership are among the key strategies of the government to lower rabies death incidence in the country.

DOH also recommended the vaccination of domesticated animals to prevent them from becoming infected and transmitting rabies to humans.

At the moment, animal immunization is conducted by the Bureau of Animal Industry of the Department of Agriculture (DA-BAI) and the Local Government Unit (LGU) through its City Health Departments.

For more rabies updates click HERE

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