Rey Anthony Chiu
BOHOL, Aug 5 (PIA) – Anti-rabies advocates urge more local governments to get serious with the threat as Bohol sees five positive cases of canine rabies this year.
The only way dogs can get rabid is when they are not properly cared, Dr. Stella Marie Lapiz said at the weekly Kapihan sa PIA.
In Bohol, where its rabies program earned an award in innovation for drastically reducing cases from 10 in 2007, to zero in 2010, getting five positive cases in 2013 is a serious drawback, she hinted during the radio forum on air.
The program in Bohol has empowered communities to report to the Bantay Rabies sa Barangay (BRB) presence of stray dogs, which for want of vaccination, almost always, spread rabies.
BRB is the parallel barangay organization of the Bohol Rabies Prevention and Elimination Council (BRPEC), tasked to implement anti-rabies programs in their turfs.
The BRBs conduct dog registration and vaccination, implement the Rabies ordinance in Bohol and spread the proper responsible pet ownership guidelines to dog owners.
They also perform dog population control and management by catching stray dogs or allowing owners to reclaim them after paying penalties.
But, seemingly, the proof presented by five cases this year indicates a need for going back to the drawing boards, a BRPEC member said.
The problem is also compounded by the fact that a resurgence of rabies could mean getting back to the ground Bohol’s already soaring rabies program, he added.
In 2007, Bohol ranked fourth among the provinces under rabies-watch.
To curb the problem, local rabies advocates based at the Office of the Provincial Veterinarian (OPV) planned for a multi-pronged approach to combat the disease which has become a public health concern.
In 2007, Bohol implemented its Rabies Prevention and Eradication Program (BRPEP) which integrated expertise from several sectors to jointly focus on finding solutions to the problem.
The BRPEP allowed advocates to campaign in communities to increase local community involvement. It also improved dog population control by spaying and neutering; promoted responsible pet ownership through school based curriculum and mobilizing rabies scouts, dog shows and animal care clinics as well as underwent massive dog registration and vaccination.
The program also improved dog bite management for human patients by establishing Animal Bite Treatment Centers; initiated veterinary quarantine for suspected rabid animals; and instituted a risk management system that included improved diagnostic capacity, disease surveillance and monitoring, sums up World Health Organization which picked Bohol’s model for eliminating the rabies threat.
As the program implementation entails huge sums of money for mobilization and logistics, Bohol anti-rabies team forged partnerships with funding donors and a variety of sectors including government and non government to secure the required funding and financial support.
As the management of the BRPEP was under the direction of the Governor of Bohol, from then Erico Aumentado to Edgar Chatto, the order of the day was to institutionalize the program by putting up parallel organizations consistent with the provincial BRPEP at the municipal and barangay levels.
But, like all government based programs, some of them do not consistently rise up to the challenge of sustainability.
After successive massive vaccination and responsible pet ownership discussions, para-legal empowerment of communities and enhancement of local skills to keep the program baying, Bohol saw one suspected rabies case in humans in Bohol for each 2011 and 2012.
Attaining a herd vaccination percentage of over 80%, owing to consistent twice-a-year vaccination, Dr. Lapiz thought the rate compared to 74,000 dogs in Bohol can already do it. She was wrong.
Romy Garcia, a rabies advocate at the OPV said they gathered reports that the 74,000 dogs registered may not be all of it, as dog teams failed to get and account all dogs, including the strays which scavenge trash cans and community garbage deposits.
Bohol’s rabies problems may again rear its ugly head, controlling it now rests in local governments and communities whose people are at the greatest risks.