100806_rabies_1.jpgI’ve been watching too much TV recently—I’ve actually sat through the movie Quarantine on HBO. To sum up the not-quite-critically-acclaimed film: Blame the dog for spreading a super strain of rabies that infected tenants of an apartment building, turning them into bloodthirsty zombie-like savages.

Declaring that rabies turns people into zombies is obviously an exaggeration. Although, if left untreated, the disease spreads along the nerves, and victims undergo headaches, fever, malaise, difficulty swallowing, hallucination, agitation, and spasms—the last two symptoms comparable to a zombie in beta-testing mode.

B movies aside, never lose a much loved pet—more importantly, a loved one—to a disease like rabies. Be a responsible pet owner and make sure your pooch gets his rabies vaccines. Though it is one of the deadliest diseases around, it, too, is one of the most preventable. Rabies control is achievable, and prevention is the first step.

Republic Act No. 9482, also known as “The Anti-Rabies Act of 2007,” aims to make the Philippines rabies-free by the year 2020 through the government’s three-pronged approach: pet immunization (some municipalities offer free rabies shots), responsible pet ownership education, and animal bite victim immunization.

But what about other dogs? Unless an animal undergoes laboratory tests, there’s no clear way to tell if a dog has rabies. There are, however, signs that a dog is rabid: profuse salivation, hostile behavior like indiscriminate biting, and unprovoked aggressiveness. So, it’s likewise important to educate children not to approach stray dogs or pets that they’re not familiar with. A scary statistic is 55,000 people died from rabies in 2009—and almost 60 percent of victims of dog bites are children under 15 years old.

100806_rabies_2.jpgThe rabies virus is actually present in the saliva—not in the blood—of an affected animal. It is passed on through a puncture in the victim’s skin, usually from an animal bite. Once symptoms of the disease occur, usually after three to 20 days, victims suffer cardiac arrest or respiratory failure that eventually leads to their death.

As first aid, as soon as someone has been bitten by a dog, the wound should be washed right away with soap under running water for at least ten minutes. Apply an antiseptic iodine solution or alcohol if available. If he’s been bitten by a pet dog, contact the owner immediately to ask if the dog has been vaccinated for rabies. You may also contact the Animal Bite Center (www.animalbitecenter.ph) through their emergency hotline (02) 816-1111 for the nearest clinic capable of treating bite cases.

We can’t stop a Quarantine sequel from being produced, but we can help eradicate rabies by starting with our own house pets.

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(Photo source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library via Wikimedia Commons Photo 1, Photo 2)
 

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