Teen is first casualty of rabies in Iloilo province

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor 

The province of Iloilo recorded its first rabies death this year after a 17-year-old man from Barangay Tumcon Ilaya, Pototan died on January 3.

Iloilo Provincial Health Office (IPHO) Chief Dr. Maria Socorro Colmenares-Quiñon said the man was bitten by a dog in June last year but did not receive an anti-rabies vaccine.

The individual appeared to remain in good health until December 2022, with no significant medical issues reported during this period. However, on January 1 the patient began complaining of an aching stomach, coupled with instances where he allegedly experienced difficulty drinking water.

His condition escalated on January 2 when the man experienced a dry cough alongside difficulties in breathing. Due to the exacerbation of symptoms, the patient was promptly brought to a hospital in the province of Iloilo for further evaluation and medical attention.

He was monitored to have high blood pressure and slow heart rate, among others. The man’s medical condition prompted his transfer to a tertiary hospital in Iloilo City where it was recommended that the patient undergo a saliva test as a confirmatory measure to ascertain the presence of the rabies virus.

While the symptoms presented by the patient could potentially be attributed to various illnesses, Colmenares-Quiñon declared the death as caused by rabies virus considering the history of a dog bite and other symptoms resembling rabies. “Ang iya mga sintomas pwede nga gin tuga sang nasarisari nga balatian pero basi sa history kag kagat sang ido kag iban pa nga sintomas kaangay sang rabies, and patient gin consider natun subong nga kaso sang rabies pending ang result sang rabies test sang iya specimen,” she said.

[His symptoms could potentially be caused by various diseases, but considering the history of a dog bite and other symptoms resembling rabies, the patient is currently being considered as a case of rabies pending the results of the rabies test on his specimen.] Initial symptoms of rabies in humans include flu, weakness or discomfort, fever, or headache.

As the disease progresses, the person can experience delirium, abnormal behavior, hydrophobia, and foaming at the mouth (related to the paralysis of swallowing muscles).

As a proactive measure, the Rural Health Unit in Pototan has initiated comprehensive contact tracing efforts to individuals who were in close contact with the 17-year-old man. Health authorities have also administered free anti-rabies vaccines to 120 individuals in the village.

Meanwhile, the local government unit has also conducted a mass dog vaccination in the affected village. According to the IPHO chief, the dog that bit the man was owned by an official of the village.

“Dapat maging responsible pet owner kita kay gina lantaw natun nga by 2026, ang province of Iloilo magiging rabies free,” she added. [We should be responsible pet owners because we envision the province of Iloilo to be rabies-free by 2026.]

It was reported that the dog was killed in October last year after displaying signs of being infected by the deadly rabies virus. Based on the data from IPHO, there have been five human rabies deaths in the province last year. Two fatalities were reported in the town of Carles and one each in the towns of Guimbal, New Lucena, and Mina.