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Palawan 47% rabies-free as it kicks off ‘Rabies Awareness Month’
By Celeste Anna R. Formoso

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, March 9 (PNA) -- The Palawan Provincial Veterinary Office (ProVet) made known Thursday morning that 47 percent of the whole province is now rabies-free as it led the commemoration of March as “Rabies Awareness Month.”

Dr. Darius Mangcucang of ProVet said the percentage rate represents 11 island towns that have already been declared rabies-free in Palawan for having regular eradication program activities, consistent vaccination schedule of pets and other domesticated animals, and for not having any record of bites for three years.

These island towns are Coron, Culion, Linapacan, Busuanga, Balabac, Agutaya, Cuyo, Magsaysay, Cagayancillo, Araceli, and Kalayaan.

Although the accomplishment is still far from the target to declare Palawan as rabies-free on or before 2020, Mangcucang claimed the province remains to be the only area in the Philippines to have declared many municipalities as “rabies-free zones.”

“All our island municipalities are now rabies-free,” said Eileen Macabihag of the Provincial Health Office (PHO), in support of ProVet.

However, she added that none of the towns on the mainland can be declared the same as they are linked to Puerto Princesa, which is considered to be highly contaminated.

“This link (to Puerto Princesa) renders it hard for us to declare any town on the mainland rabies-free because it is the entry and exit points, and there might be spill over; it is very difficult,” Macabihag said, supplying in addition that before any area is declared rabies-free zone, there should be no death by human or animal.

The town of Narra in southern Palawan is recorded to have had death cases due to rabies, according to Macabihag. The last death due to rabies was recorded in 2011.

“On the mainland, Narra is the only town that has registered mortality due to rabies,” she stated.

Mangcucang added too, that currently, Narra is under their monitoring for the presence of the viral disease.

“We suspect that there is rabies in Narra because of animal movement from Puerto Princesa. This is something we cannot control – animals traveling and they carry the viral disease,” he said.

Mangcucang said the declaration of a rabies-free Palawan depends a lot on the help of volunteers from local government units (LGUs) to manage vaccinations, and responsible pet ownership.

“We can make the province rabies-free with the support of the LGUs since ProVet has limited employees to implement the task,” he said, adding that this is despite the training they are giving to 250 volunteer barangay veterinary aides (BVA) that are helping in their mass vaccination activities.

Macabihag reminded that each municipality is mandated to have rabies eradication plans that have activities that should be enforced for a rabies-free Palawan in 2020.

In Palawan, the Provet estimated that there are about 68,000 pet dogs, and many first class municipalities are susceptible to the viral disease.

Narra and Sofronio Espanola town in southern Palawan are the municipalities that have recently registered the highest number of bites although the ProVet cannot give any specific detail as to how many there have been in their record.

Being a tourist-frequented province in the country, it is important that Palawan is rabies-free, according to ProVet.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015, “rabies remains an under-reported and neglected zoonosis with a case fatality rate of almost 100 percent in humans and animals.”

It furthered that “Dog–mediated human rabies causes tens of thousands of human deaths annually despite being 100 percent preventable. Over 95 percent of human cases are caused by the bite of a rabies–infected dog and disproportionately affect rural communities, particularly children, from economically disadvantaged areas of Africa and Asia, where awareness of the disease and access to appropriate post–exposure prophylaxis is limited or non–existent.”

ProVet is commemorating March as Rabies Awareness Month under the theme "Rabies ay Iwasan, Alaga ay Pa-bakunahan." (PNA)

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