Iloilo records two human rabies deaths

By John Noel E. Herrera

The province has already recorded two human rabies fatalities this year, following the death of a 37-year-old man from Barangay Bitaog Gaja in New Lucena last May 5, 2023, according to Iloilo Provincial Health Office (IPHO).

The first reported death this year was a 28-year-old man from Igbaras, Iloilo, after a stray dog bit his left index finger at the esplanade of Guimbal town last March 2023.

IPHO chief Dr. Maria Socorro Colmenares-Quiñon explained that the latest victim was bitten by a dog last March 2023, but did not immediately seek medical intervention, and even ate dog meat in April.

On May 2, the victim was taken to the Western Visayas Sanitarium and General Hospital in Santa Barbara after experiencing flu-like symptoms. He was treated for a urinary tract infection (UTI) and was allowed to go home as he did not tell the medical staff that he was bitten by a dog.

But on the night of May 2, he manifested aerophobia (fear of air) and hydrophobia (fear of water) – two of the severe symptoms of rabies in humans – and was taken to Aleosan District Hospital where he disclosed that he was bitten by a dog.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first symptoms of rabies may be similar to the flu, including weakness or discomfort, fever, or headache, and an itching sensation at the site of the bite.

It then progresses to cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, agitation, hallucinations, hydrophobia, and insomnia.

Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr., on the other hand, appealed to the public to be responsible pet owners, as most of the rabies cases in the province were because of dogs on the streets.

“We continue to vaccinate sang aton mga dogs. We continue to do that and we appeal sa mga residente kay ang problema sa rabies ang stray dogs. Kung ara lang sa aton, sa mga panimalay ang aton mga ido, hindi man na mag-ano. Usually, ang aton gina treat for rabies, ginakagat sang mga ido nga ara lang sa kalye,” Defensor said in a press conference on Thursday, May 11, 2023.

The governor added that slaughtering dogs, just like what the victim did, should be stopped as it is already prohibited under Republic Act No.8485 or the Animal Welfare Act.

Quiñon also stressed that cooked dog meat might still have rabies and could affect humans as they can still contract the virus through slaughtering and eating it.

“Pwede gid, especially kung wala siya ma cook well, or especially pagpatay or pagkatay, may mga blood nga magkadto sa mucos membraines ta, pwede gid siya maka-affect sa aton systems,” the PHO chief explained.

Meanwhile, Quiñon urged pet owners to submit their dogs for vaccination, hoping that rabies cases and deaths in the province will not increase this year.

The provincial government earlier allotted P8 million for over 20,000 vials of vaccines, which could cover 70 percent of the total dog population in the province.

Despite the two fatalities this year, Quiñon said that it is still lower compared to five reported deaths in 2022.

She noted that there are five municipalities that have the potential to be declared rabies-free this year, which include the towns of Concepcion, Ajuy, San Dionisio, Oton, and Carles.

However, the provincial government will not reach its goal of declaring Iloilo rabies-free by 2025 or 2026 as the province already has two confirmed human rabies deaths this year.

“Unfortunate nga tani kita gusto ta man sa 2025-2026, but then maisol ang province-wide,” Quiñon said.

There must be no recorded canine rabies cases and human rabies deaths in Iloilo within three years for the province to be declared rabies-free, according to Quiñon.