DAVAO CITY -- The El Niño phenomenon does not only affect the power supply and sustainability of agricultural production in Mindanao but also caused the increase of rabies cases among humans.

Pulmonary tuberculosis, on the other hand, remains a health concern in Davao Region following its 10.76 percent rise in 2009 from 2008, the health department in this city said Friday.

Doctor Francisco Alivio, rabies coordinator of the Department of Health (DOH) in Davao, said rabies cases on humans, especially on children, increase every summer vacation because people tend to go out of their homes more often.

Click here for Election 2010 updates

"They (children) are the ones out and playing on the streets so sila yung madaling mapuntahan ng mga aso sa kalye at hindi agad malalaman na yung aso pala ay may rabies," he said.

The rabies virus, which causes inflammation of the brain leading to paralysis, is transmitted through the animal’s saliva. It enters the human body through animal bites or when a pet licks a person’s skin with wounds or breaks.

With this, Alivio said immunization against rabies for both dogs and humans are necessary.

"Rabies occurrence in dogs is at five cases per million population. In the country, there are around 300 to 500 cases of rabies among dogs on the last annual data," he said.

He also said the Department of Agriculture (DA) gives immunization of dogs for free. “There is a supply of vaccines pero hindi lang nadidistribute ng maayos. But definitely, we have vaccines available. It will be for free on the first two shots.”

Alivio asked the public to be equipped with basic knowledge on first aid to prevent rabies infection. He advised them to go directly to a professional doctor in case of a dog bite.

While keeping the public aware of the increase in rabies cases, the DOH in Davao also revealed that among other health concerns, tuberculosis remains a major threat to human health.

The DOH's regional coordinating committee (RCC) revealed a partial count of 5,289 cases in 2009 compared to the 4,775 tuberculosis cases recorded in 2008.

"TB (tuberculosis) kills 75 people every day. A person with untreated TB can infect 10 to 15 people in a single year by merely coughing near them. TB causes more deaths among women than all causes of maternal mortality combined. TB is the main cause of death among people with HIV/Aids in the Asia Pacific Region," Dr. Parkash Mansukhani said during the Kapihan sa PIA in this city.

The rise on recorded cases, however, is also associated with the intensified campaign against the disease, Dr. Eloisa Lynn Segura, National Tuberculosis Program (NTP) regional medical coordinator, said.

"We are doing a 'private-public mix' strategy in which the private hospitals catering to TB patients work in coordination with government hospital. Before, it's only the government's responsibility to tend to TB patients but then to intensify the efforts against the spread of the disease, there had to be coordination,” she said.

Segura added: "Through this strategy we were able to get 15 percent of the total count of TB cases. We also have strategies like 'TB in the workplace' wherein establishments are asked to monitor their employees if they have TB. The (Davao) region is most active on promoting private sector involvement.”

The DOH has urged the patients with symptoms of tuberculosis to diagnose early for “early cure.”

Among the symptoms of the disease are chronic cough with blood-tinged sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

The DOH said that generally, most people affected by tuberculosis belong to class C or those living within and below poverty line.

The medical experts promoted March 24 as World TB Day, while the whole month of March was declared as Rabies Month in the country. (Jade C. Zaldivar/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)