The dog, a so-called man’s best friend, could be the source of the highly-fatal rabies in humans. In the Philippines, although rabies is not among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality, it is considered a significant public health problem for two reasons: 1) it is one of the most acutely fatal infection which causes the death of 200-300 Filipinos annually, and; 2) the Philippines ranked number six among the countries with the highest reported incidence of rabies in the world. The ranking went as high as number three in 2000.
Prevent the disease by knowing the answers to the most frequently asked questions on rabies.
1. Is it true that a dog which is rabid dies only after it has bitten a person? No. Whether the dog has bitten a person or not, a rabid dog dies within 14 days.
2. Is rabies curable? No. Once signs of brain involvement are manifested, the rabies victim dies within 1-3 days.
3. Is rabies preventable? Yes. By administering vaccine and immunoglobulin at the right time to an animal bite victim, rabies can be prevented. One important measure that will be of big help in reducing the risk of getting rabies is by immediate washing of the bite wound with soap and water.
4. If bitten by a stray animal, what should be properly done? The following should be done: a) immediately wash the bite wound with soap and clean water; b) consult a physician or your nearest Animal Bite Center for immunization; and c) consult a veterinarian for the management of the biting dog.
5. Do we need to kill the dog immediately? No. If the dog is apparently healthy, it should not be killed immediately and should instead be kept on leash or caged for observation for 14 days.
6. What is the difference between the observation period and the incubation period? The observation period is the period of time that the dog or cat is observed for signs of rabies. The observation period for dogs or cats is usually 14 days starting from the day the animal has bitten a person. Studies have shown that a dog or cat which is rabid at the time of bite usually dies within 14 days. If it remains to be alive within that period, it means that it is not rabid and have not transmitted the virus to the person.
On the other hand, the incubation period of rabies in humans is the period from the day the person is bitten to the day when first signs and symptoms of rabies are manifested. The average incubation period is 20-90 days. The nearer the bite site to the brain or the more the bite wounds, the shorter is the incubation period.
7. Is “tandok” effective in the prevention of rabies? No. “Tandok” is a folk medicine done by placing a deer horn over the wound. This is believed to suck out the rabies virus. Records have shown that patients who received “tandok” treatment died either of rabies or tetanus which only means that tandok is not effective. Those patients who did not develop rabies after tandok application may not be actually bitten by a rabid dog.
8. Is rubbing the bite wounds with garlic and vinegar useful in the prevention of rabies? No. Garlic and vinegar need not be applied on the bite wound for they will cause more injury (swelling, irritation, further introducing dirt into the wound). By washing the wound immediately with soap and clean water, the risk of rabies infection will be greatly reduced.
9. Does a person bitten by a rabid person need to be given anti-rabies immunization? Yes. A rabid person can transmit the rabies virus to another person and need to be given anti-rabies immunization.
10. How is wound treatment done? The wound should be immediately washed with soap and clean water. Antiseptics may be applied. The patient may be given antibiotics and anti-tetanus immunization, if indicated.
11. What is rabies post-exposure treatment? Post-exposure treatment is given to persons who are exposed to rabid animals. It consists of local wound treatment, active immunization (vaccination) and passive immunization (administration of rabies immunoglobulin).
Active immunization or vaccination aims to induce the body to develop antibodies against rabies whose effect lasts for 1 to 3 years. On the other hand, passive immunization is the process of giving an antibody to persons with Category III exposure (head and neck bites), multiple/single deep bites, contamination of mucous membranes or this coverings of the eyes, lips, mouth) in order to provide immediate protection against rabies which should be administered within the first seven days of active immunization. The effect of the immunoglobulin is only short term.
12. Where should a bite victim go to for post-exposure treatment against rabies? A bite victim should go to the nearest Animal Bite Center or Health Center where he is further evaluated to determine whether or not he should be given post-exposure treatment.