For hitting a zero-record on animal bites and for undertaking strong rabies prevention and elimination programs for three years in a row, an island municipality in the province of Bohol has been declared a “Rabies-Free Island.”
President Carlos P. Garcia (CPG), more commonly known here as Pitogo Island and located northeast of the capital city of Tagbilaran, was recognized by the national government during the World Rabies Day celebration on September 28 for its anti-rabies programs which include dog vaccination, dog population control, community awareness, education on rabies prevention, immediate treatment if bitten by unvaccinated dogs, and promoting responsible pet ownership.
CPG town, a fourth-class municipality with 23,356 population as of 2015, shares the limelight with the municipalities of Batuan, San Jacinto, San Fernando, and Monreal of Ticao Island, all of Masbate province – and Corcuera, Banton, and Concepcion in Romblon province – at the recently concluded 2017 National Rabies Summit held in Century Park Manila.
“The rabies-free declaration of Pres. Garcia town is one big step towards the achievement of our ultimate goal of Bohol being a rabies-free declared province by 2020,” said Bohol Gov. Edgar M. Chatto in a statement.
In 2011 the Global Alliance for Rabies Control recognized Bohol for its rabies prevention program, saying that “due to their intense and successful efforts, the Bohol Rabies Elimination program won the highly competitive GalingPook Award…”
“As long as the government is able to receive continued support to sustain these efforts, both the dog and human population of Bohol will be protected from death from rabies,” according to a study submitted to the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.
On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) has noted that 200 to 300 Filipinos die every year due to rabies-related infection.
WHO says the Philippines has been ranking as one of the top 10 countries in the world with the highest number of rabies incidents.
In 2015, for instance, the country registered some 783,000 cases of animal bites, 10 percent higher than the 683,000 cases recorded a year earlier.
Meanwhile, receiving the award for CPG town in Manila were Liza M. Quirog (representing the provincial government), provincial veterinarian Dr. Stella Marie Lapiz, CPG councilor Tessie Boyboy (representing CPG Mayor Fernando Estavilla), Department of Education supervisor Maria Teresa Bacor, municipal agriculturist Felisa Boyles, municipal health officer Dr. Honey Talisic, and CPG local government unit representative Celso Basilad.
BOHOL RABIES PREVENTION AND ELIMINATION PROGRAM
The Bohol Rabies Prevention and Elimination Program (BRPEP) was initiated by the Provincial Government of Bohol in 2007 aiming to eliminate Rabies in the island by 2010.
Covering the 1,109 barangays of the 47 municipalities and 1 city, it intended to protect its 1.2 Million human population as well as its dog population. A provincial ordinance was passed to institutionalize the program and created the implementing councils at the provincial down to the municipal and the barangay levels.
The program has 2 major components:
- Dog Rabies Prevention and Elimination
Involves the compulsory registration of dogs to establish dog ownership and accountability, mass vaccination to establish dog herd immunity, dog population management and movement control and Responsible Pet Ownership.
- Human Rabies Prevention
Focus is on the provision of post exposure prophylaxis for animal bite victims and pre-exposure treatment of program personnel and personnel considered at “risk”.
In the implementation of the program, innovative strategies were applied to beat the problems on high cost and magnitude of scope.
Community One Health approach thru inter-sectoral program implementation was adopted integrating the resources and expertise of the health, education, legislative, local government, tourism and environment and agricultural sectors. More importantly community participation was harnessed.
Mobilization of various program stakeholders through: conduct of program orientation, provision of operations manuals, defining roles and functions and holding of specialized skills trainings for technical staff of the Veterinary, Agriculture and Health Offices.
Engaging Citizenship Support & People Empowerment was also a vital factor in comprehensively covering the entire province including its islands and islets through:
Community- based advocacy campaigns
Institutionalizaton of Paralegal System in every barangays providing for the community’s internal procedures for speedy and simplified enforcement of the Anti-Rabies Laws.
School- based rabies awareness and responsible pet ownership advocacies through school curriculum integration in five subjects on all 926 public elementary schools.
Improved access and timely Post Exposure Treatment by establishing additional 4 animal bite treatment centers in strategic locations, three of which are privately operated. For indigents and bite victims of dogs of compliant owners, the government is also providing subsidy on the post exposure vaccination.
Establishment of the Provincial Animal Health Care Unit and Laboratory (PAHCUL) for the scientific requirements on disease confirmation and diagnosis as well as for epidemiological studies.(with a report from Romy Garcia of the Office of the Provincial Veterinarian)