Congress urged to probe ‘failed’ Rabies Control Program

Amid a 37 percent surge in deaths due to rabies, Quezon City Rep. Marvin Rillo has called for a congressional inquiry into the “unsuccessful” National Rabies Prevention and Control Program (NRPCP) that was established by law 15 years ago.

“The NRPCP has missed its targets to eliminate human rabies by 2020 and to declare the Philippines rabies-free by 2022, despite ample funding of between P500 million to P900 million every year,” Rillo, House appropriations committee member, said.

“We want the NRPCP’s failure investigated, with a view to recommending stronger corrective measures to finally eliminate human deaths from rabies in the country,” Rillo said.

Citing Department of Health (DOH) figures, Rillo said a total of 322 Filipinos died of rabies from Jan. 1 to Nov. 5 this year compared to 235 over the same period in 2021.

Rillo has filed House Resolution No. 462, urging the House committee on health to conduct an inquiry into the NRPCP in aid of legislation.

The Anti-Rabies Law of 2007 established the NRPCP to control, prevent the spread of, and eventually eradicate human and animal rabies, and to promote responsible pet ownership.

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable zoonotic disease (communicable from animals to humans) mostly transmitted through an animal bite.

DOH records show that rabies infections in the country, mostly due to unvaccinated dogs, has a case fatality rate of 100 percent.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also considers rabies an extremely deadly disease, saying that “once clinical symptoms appear in humans, rabies is virtually 100 percent fatal.”

Meanwhile, on account of the rise in dog bites, the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) paid P180 million in Animal Bite Treatment Package (ABTP) claims in 2021, up 22 percent from the P148 million paid in 2020.

There were 57,420 ABTP claims paid in 2021, up 21 percent from the 47,320 claims paid in 2020.

From January to June this year, Philhealth spent another P92.6 million to pay for 32,598 ABTP claims.

The ABTP primarily covers dog bites, but people bitten by other domestic animals such as cats may be covered. Bites from livestock such as cows, pigs, horses, and goats, as well as wild animals like bats and monkeys, may also be covered.

The treatment package covers the cost of providing post-exposure prophylaxis services such as vaccines, immunoglobulin, antibiotics, and supplies.