By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
A MEMBER of the Iloilo City Council declared a rabies outbreak in the city due to the sudden spike in infections.
In her committee report delivered during their regular session on Sept 4, 2018, Councilor Candice Magdalane Tupas said that “there is already a rabies outbreak/emergency as the number of cases shot up from zero for the past 10 years to ten cases in a span of a few months.”
“There has been an increase in stray dogs in the city. In 2017, we have zero rabies cases but now we already have a human death case from Lanit. In fact, we were supposed to be proclaimed by DOH (Department of Health) as rabies-free but because of our human rabies case we didn’t pass,” Tupas added.
The report also said that from January to July 2018, the Regional Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory of the Department of Agriculture detected eight positive animal rabies cases in Iloilo City.
The shortage of anti-rabies is also a factor in the purported outbreak.
With the Iloilo City government running out of vaccines, the City Veterinarian’s (CVO) and Health Offices (CHO) must adopt a paradigm shift – addressing the source of the infection.
Tupas reported that the Sto. Rosario Health Center in City Proper district proposed the paradigm shift that focuses on the elimination of animals that could spread the deadly infection.
The health center is the designated animal bite center in the city.
“Paradigm shift meaning responsible pet ownership, decreasing the number of strays, and implementing the powers of City Veterinarian Office to actually terminate the strays,” Tupas said.
Aside from prevention and elimination of stray animals, the center also suggested animal population control and registration of pets so that the owner will be properly identified and held responsible for the treatment of animal bite victims.
It also encouraged responsible pet ownership through registration and vaccination of the animals and make pet owners liable for the rabies treatment of bite victims.
The strict implementation of the Human Rabies Act, especially provisions for the responsibilities of pet owners, should also be observed.
The Human Rabies act requires the pet owners to pay for the medical expenses of victims bitten by their pets.
The City Council recently revealed that the local government lacks anti-rabies vaccine.
The shortage is due to problems in the production of two types of rabies vaccines pre-qualified by the World Health Organization (WHO) – Rabipur and Verorab.
Last February, the Department of Health (DOH) issued a memorandum saying that Rabipur’s production was temporarily suspended and the supplies recalled from the market because of bacterial residues.
Verorab also suffered production failure due to shortage in raw materials.
With the vaccine shortage since February 2018, the Sto. Rosario Health Center can only give one free dose instead of four free doses.
Tupas explained that there is a higher compliance rate of 100% if the free dose is given on Day 3 after the bite, compared to the free dose on Day 1, which has an 8% compliance rate.
“The giving of vaccines is first come, first serve basis and depending on how the patient was bitten or the gravity of illness. The center is not able to follow up the patient when the free dose is given on Day 1, unlike when it is given on Day 3 wherein the center can keep track of patient records,” she added.
Based on her committee report, the vaccine brands are not interchangeable. Once they started to administer Verorab on Day 1, it must be the only type of vaccine used for the remaining days of treatment.
While other animal bite centers provide Speeda (another type of vaccine), once it is administered to the patient on Day 1, they cannot anymore avail of the Day 3 free dose of Verorab offered by the center.