Western Visayas’ regional health office has confirmed two cases of human rabies in the first four months of the year and is validating three others.

The regional health office’s head of the infectious diseases cluster, Dr. Elvie Villalobos, sounded the alarm as he cited the increasing number of cases of dog bites in Western Visayas.

The two cases confirmed were from Cauayan, Negros Occidental while of the three that are being verified, two are from Capiz and one is from Kabankalan, Negros Occidental.

The Western Visayas regional health office has recorded more than 85,000 animal bites in 2016, compared to 65,000 in 2015. It monitored nine deaths last year — four from Negros Occidental, two each from Antique and Capiz, and one from Iloilo. Western Visayas ranked ninth nationwide in terms of mortality.

“This is alarming because supposedly we are aiming for zero death from rabies,” Villalobos said.

He noted that more than half of children below 15 years old are vulnerable to dog bites because they are the ones left at home during vacation. They also do not inform their parents when they are bitten by dogs.

Amid the rising number of bite cases, he stressed the need for bite victims to seek medication from any of the 60 animal bite treatment centers strategically located across Western Visayas, including Negros Occidental.

He likewise urged pet owners to have their dogs vaccinated, noting that the government has been providing free vaccines for canines.

Rabies can be eliminated in an area if more than 70 percent of its dog population is vaccinated, he said.

Villalobos further pointed out that most rabies cases were from geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDAs), where people often opt for the traditional “tandok” instead of bringing the patient to a medical clinic. “Tandok” is a procedure to extract the rabies virus from the victim using a deer horn.

Meanwhile, the health official called on hospitals not to refuse patients showing symptoms of rabies.

“Rabies is fatal and it cannot be treated. The mortality rate is 100 percent. No one can survive rabies,” he warned.

Aside from dogs, rabies can also be acquired from cats, pigs and monkeys. (PNA) PGL