“There is a need to intensify the information campaign on anti-rabies to increase public awareness especially in areas with high rabies incidence” said Dr. Roberto M. Macatuggal, Director for Research and Planning, La Salette University, Santiago City in an interview about his study on the Anti-Rabies Campaign in Cagayan and Isabela.
Rabies is a zoonotic viral disease that can be transmitted to human through bites of infected animals (usually dogs). It is a fatal disease, killing more than 55,000 people every year according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In thePhilippines, the Department of Health (DOH) reported that rabies causes 200-300 deaths among Filipinos every year.
In CagayanValleyalone, more than 8000 animal-bite related incidence are recorded in 2006, with 27 deaths. “These are the reported cases only. There maybe unreported cases because of ignorance or lack of awareness on rabies in the community,” said Dr. Macatuggal.
The study was conducted in the municipalities of Tuao and Claveria in the province of Cagayan, San Pablo and Ilagan in the province of Isabela, aimed to determine the extent of knowledge of the community on the nature of symptoms, mode of transmission, treatment, prevention and control, socio-cultural practices affecting the anti-rabies campaign as well as the nature and extent of involvement of the local government unit (LGU) and other institution within the community.
Results of the study showed that though some of the respondents are aware of the signs and symptoms of rabies, there is evident misconception on nature of the disease. Sixty percent (60%) of the respondents from Claveria, Cagayan believed that rabies is caused by venom (similar to snakebites). The same results were gathered from Ilagan, Isabela (40%), Tuao, Cagayan (40%) and San Pablo, Isabela (20%). “This might be the reason why the community resorts to an alternative practice called “tandok” (cultural practice to suck the venom out of the body using spared horn of animal as an instrument). This is what they do for snake bites,” said Dr. Macatuggal.
Most of the respondents also agreed that rabies is fatal and that the victim should be brought to the hospital and needs to be treated with anti-rabies vaccine. However, the notion of buying expensive medicines and availing costly health care services in the hospitals and other health facilities make the respondents hesitant to seek treatment.
The practice of eating dog’s meat as an antidote to rabies is now slowly being abandoned. However, respondents claimed that dog’s meat is still served as delicacy in some of the restaurants and eateries in the provinces.
Confining or leashing a dog is still not widely practiced in the provinces. “In fact, astray dogs are usual scenery in the respondents’ communities.” Though respondents agree that a dog should be immunized, most of them are generally undecided on what should be done to a rabid dog.
In conclusion, Dr. Macatuggal’s study emphasized the importance of continuously educating the community to further increase their awareness not only on the nature, symptoms, prevention and control of rabies but also on the provisions of the anti-rabies law as well as the guidelines for responsible pet ownership. “Because the more the community are exposed to information about rabies, the lesser they become vulnerable to the disease,” said Dr. Macatuggal.
Meanwhile, the study also determined the extent or nature of involvement of LGUs in the anti-rabies campaign. Results showed that though LGU adopted the law, there is no strict implementation and monitoring in the communities. Information dissemination was weak as well.
Dr. Leonilo Resontoc, Vice Chair and National Coordinator for Rabies Prevention and Control Taskforce of the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) also agreed that not all LGUs are supportive of the program. “We implement as to what the law required us to do. We conduct immunization, we disseminate information, but we can’t do it all alone. The role of LGUs is actually invaluable, when it comes to implementation and sustainability of the program,” said Dr. Resontoc.
Pet owners should also be encouraged to visit their local municipalities to avail the free anti-rabies immunization for dogs, according to Dr. Resontoc. “Do not let pets roam in the streets to avoid contact with potentially rabid animals and educate the children about the dangers of approaching and touching stray animals, especially cats and dogs.”
The study, Anti-Rabies Campaign in Cagayan and Isabela: An Assessment, is a supported project of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST). (Edmon B. Agron)
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