People and rabies | SunStar

People and rabies

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People and rabies

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

ANTARCTICA may be the most humanly uninhabitable continent in the world. However, it has one great advantage over all of us in the peopled continents: It has no rabies infection problem, or, at least, not a prevalent one.

Ninety-nine percent of deaths due to rabies came from cases of dog bites. Asia and Africa comprised more than 95 percent of all deaths around the world due to rabies infection. The Philippines, however, has an advantage against the rabies affliction.

In September 2014, the Department of Agriculture (DA) with the Australian Government and the World Organization for Animal Health (Woah) launched a nationwide program for vaccination of dogs to reduce rabies cases due to dog bites in Philippines. The country is still a place for tolerated stray dogs. In our subdivision, the local DA veterinarians visited us annually for consistent free dog vaccination.

Take note, however, that bats and cats can carry the rabies virus as well. In the Americas, rabies infection through bat bites predominates rabies cases from dog bites. So far though, there has been no report of these cases in the country. A case of rabid cat bite can be an interesting front page story.

While dog vaccination for free is great news, the same cannot be said with human post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) vaccination. The cost of a PEP vaccine is prohibitive, considering that a four-dose vaccination is a standard recommendation. Recent development can even make these vaccines more expensive.

The story goes that older culture media used in cultivating rabies virus used in the PEP formulation had been found, at times, contaminated with human materials and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) materials. BSE causes what we now know from news reports as the Mad Cow disease (MCD). It is transmissible and fatal for cows. The human form of MCD is believed to be due to consuming beef, particularly parts such as the brain and spinal cord, if the beef, that is, came from an infected cow.

Well, whether we turn out crazy also after eating beef with MCD, we cannot answer that right now.

Nevertheless, culture media producers now are working on creating novel culture media that are contamination-free. It is good news if possible (mostly it is) but bad news if the cost is prohibitive to peso-earning Pinoys.

That’s for us to wait and see in the future.

Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on October 18, 2017.

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