HEADING into the summer season, more rabies cases have been diagnosed in the country in the first two months of 2023, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

In a virtual press briefing, DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Dr Alethea de Guzman said they have already registered an eight percent increase from the 51 rabies cases reported during the same period last year.

"Rabies cases have begun to increase with 55 cases reported this 2023," said de Guzman.

DOH data shows that Central Luzon had the most cases with 11, followed by Calabarzon with nine, Bicol Region with five, Northern Mindanao with four, and Davao Region with four.

On the other hand, provinces with the most cases are Bulacan (seven), Laguna (five), Camarines Sur (four), Bukidnon (three), and South Cotabato (three).

De Guzman said the higher number of rabies cases are likely due to the improved surveillance and reporting system compared to the past three years amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

"It is possible that our surveillance has improved. Remember that for the past three years, we have been very focused on COVID-19. Only recently we have the resources for other diseases," she said.

She, however, said it is also possible that the higher mobility of Filipinos result to more possible cases of animal bites.

"There is a possibility that we are seeing more cases because people go out more and have higher interaction between animals and humans," said de Guzman.

Anti-rabies vaccines

Nevertheless, the health official called on local government units (LGUs) to increase the number of their animal bite treatment centers (ABTCs).

Currently, there are a total of 664 ABTCs nationwide that are prepared to provide immediate action and intervention to animal bite victims.

"We hope that our LGUs will increase their ABTCs... We must expand access and availability to these treatment centers," said de Guzman.

She also urged animal owners to have their pets vaccinated with anti-rabies doses.

"We continuously encourage everyone to get their pets regularly vaccinated against rabies," said de Guzman.

Rabies-free zones

On the other hand, de Guzman reported that there are currently eight rabies-free zones in the Philippines.

These include Siquijor (2008), Batanes (2010), Biliran (2012), Camiguin (2012), Marinduque (2012), Dinagat Islands (2015), Catanduanes (2018), and Romblon (2018).

There are also 14 provinces with some of its cities and municipalities being free from rabies.

They are Negros Oriental (two areas), Camotes Island (four areas), Negros Occidental (one area), Southern Leyte (one area), Aklan (one area), Palawan (11 areas), Quezon (eight areas), Surigao Del Norte (five areas), Batangas (one area), Iloilo (seven areas), Masbate (four areas), Bohol (one area), Northern Samar (two areas), and Zamboanga Sibugay (three areas).

"Even if cases are increasing, there are areas that have been cleared and free from rabies cases," said de Guzman. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)