Island declared as “rabies-free”
posted 8-Oct-2018  ·  
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Catanduanes became only the eighth province in the entire country to be declared as a rabies-free province, with Governor Joseph Cua receiving the award during the National Rabies Summit held during the World Rabies Day celebration last week in Paranaque City.

Together with some members of the Provincial Rabies Control Committee (PRCC), the chief executive was given the plaque of recognition by officials of the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Agriculture (DA), the National Rabies Prevention and Control Committee, and the World Health Organization (WHO) at the Blue Leaf Filipinas Hotel last Sept. 27, 2018.

The province also received an award for being without a single case of human rabies in the past eight years, while the 11 towns were also declared as rabies-free zones. The Eastern Bicol Medical Center’s Animal Bite Treatment Center was likewise recognized for achieving a Post-Exposure Prophylaxis Completion Rate of 99 percent for the period 2016-2017.

Aside from the eight provinces, only 38 municipalities and four island towns have been declared as rabies-free in the Philippines, for which the DOH and DA is seeking the same distinction by 2020, some 10 years ahead of the WHO’s projection.

The province’s feat is attributed to the leadership of Gov. Cua in heading the PRCC, which worked hard to comply with the stringent guidelines.

With the encouragement of the committee, municipal and barangay councils adopted laws regarding rabies prevention and responsible pet ownership while the Provincial Health Office, through identified barangay program coordinators for rabies, conducted surveillance of animal bite response and referred animal bite victims to the treatment centers.

In his message, Gov. Cua stated that in poor provinces, dog bites were often treated by “arbularyos” who resorted to “tambal” or “tapal” using herbal mixtures and “orasyon” to ‘cure’ the patient.

Worse, he said, “tambays” would often hunt the rabid dog and with the consent of the dog owner, kill it for “pulutan” shared in the neighborhood.

The governor said that this realization that it would be most difficult to maintain a rabies-free place due to plain ignorance in the community, has pushed the provincial government to act upon the problem, understanding how dangerous rabies is and how it could become an epidemic.

Cua cited the support of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), DA and DOH in Catanduanes becoming a recipient of Rabies Prevention and Control Project from 2010 to 2013.

“For the last three years, Catanduanes has had zero-incidence of rabies, with the people as the real active agents in the endeavor,” he proudly declared, adding that this was done through a multi-sectoral campaign in the conduct of massive dog vaccination, neutering, observed implementation of local ordinances, surveillance, quarantine checkpoints among communities, and information and education campaign.

In the exit conference conducted Aug. 28-31 in the 11 towns and selected barangays, a team from the NRPCC found that all systems were in place in both human and animal health regarding immunization, referrals, laboratory surveillance, population surveys, reporting, case investigation.

All municipalities have ordinances in adherence with RA 9482, the team found, while Annual Municipal Action plans are followed.

It was gratified to confirm that vaccination coverage achieved more than expected, with local vaccine procurement instrumental in the achievement of dog vaccination coverage and the zero-case for both human and animals for the last two years.

In the meeting, the NPRCC team urged the provincial and municipal governments to maintain high dog vaccination coverage, referral systems, strict enforcement of Section 7 of RA 9482, continued local procurement of vaccine (human and animal), and  the adoption of “Hitoma Style“ dog control in all areas.

Since the source of human rabies is animals (dogs, and, cats, etc.), the mandate of the municipal agriculture office and the local veterinary office must be strengthened, it said.

With rabies killing more than 200 Filipinos every year, the NPRCC considers as critical success factors in the rabies elimination campaign the long-term political and social commitment, community engagement, sustainable vaccination of 70% of at-risk dog population, sufficient resources, promotion of vaccine banks, reaching out to remote and at-risk populations, conduct of performance measurements at all levels, and maintenance of trained and motivated personnel.

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