Animal bite cases rising in Surigao City but CHO says zero rabies cases in 4 years

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/30 March)—Despite the rising cases of animal bite victims here, this city has maintained its “zero rabies incidence” for four straight years now, Garrote Menor, head of the Animal Bites Treatment Center of the City Health Office (CHO), said.

She attributed the lack of rabid cases during the period to the “reinforcement campaign method to the villages,” which involves the conduct of frequent information drives to pet owners.

The CHO and City Veterinary Office are working in tandem in the drive against rabies in the area, Menor, a nurse, said.

“We don’t have any rabies case since 2008 and we were able to maintain that zero incidence for four straight years until this quarter of the year,” Menor said.

Although there were no recorded rabies cases among residents here for four years, animal bites have significantly increased last year by 47 percent to 1, 134 cases from 771 in 2011, CHO data showed.

Last year, Menor said that dog bites reached 997 cases, 80 for cat bites and 57 for bites from rats, monkeys and other animals.

In 2011, recorded dog bites were 667 cases, 61 for cat bites and 41 from other animals.

She said that dogs and cats remain the leading animals that victimize people, especially children.

In the curative aspect, Menor told MindaNews in a phone interview that all victims were given proper medical treatment including pre-exposure vaccination, which explains why “no one was afflicted with rabies.”

She said the city government, through the CHO, is subsidizing the administration of anti-rabies vaccines in cases of dog bites.

Menor said the patients will not pay for the first doze of the anti-rabies vaccine.

“Indigent or not, we give them the vaccine and that is free of charge,” she said.

Menor said that if the dog will die after biting the victim, the patient will be given four complete sessions.

She said they will not charge the victim if he or she is an indigent for the four sessions.

Menor said that the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. also offers free vaccines, including anti-biotic tablets and other medicines needed to prevent rabies, to its members.

Private bite centers here charge as much as P6,000 or P1,500 per session to prevent rabies infection.

Meanwhile, since March has been declared Rabies Awareness Month, health officials urged the public to have their pets, especially dogs and cats, injected with anti-rabies vaccines.

Dr. Alan Quines, city veterinary officer, said they target to vaccinate at least 3,000 dogs this year.

As of March 26, 1,012 dogs have been vaccinated in rural barangays in the city such as Luna, Taft, Canlanipa, Washington, San Juan and Sabang.

Pet owners need to shell out only P30 for registration fee to avail a vaccine, Quines said.

Quines said that they will go to the 21 island barangays for their animal vaccination campaign starting next month.

He said his office, the Department of Education and the Department of Health are planning to conduct a series of symposia for elementary and high school students this school year as part of their information drive against rabies. (Roel Catoto/MindaNews)