The Treacherous Man’s Best Friend
What You Need to Know About Rabies
I am a dog person. I like dogs over cats. I never exactly rattle if a dog barks at me furiously. My better-half otherwise freaks out if he sees (even the most harmless looking ones) a dog approaches him (unless, of course if he owns the dog). It was a total turn off when we strolled around Puerto Gallera’s beaches and a wandering dog almost attacked us, (that time he was just a boy friend, oh boy, I should have thought of not marrying him) he used me as a shield from the fuming dog. Another was when we had our honeymoon at Baguio City and we had to take a picture with Douglas (hey, if you’ve visited Pines View, pretty much you knew who Douglas is...); I had to convince him for 15 long minutes before we could finally take a photo. I never understood my hubbyness until my brother was bitten by our neighbour’s adopted a pregnant abandoned dog that they fed regularly (but eventually never volunteering in paying for my brother’s vaccine). It’s a hell! Not that I less worry of my brother’s ripped skin on legs due to the dog’s deep horrific bite, but it also hurts me more to have spent Php 12,800.00 for the anti-rabies vaccine. Aside from the “other expenses “we had for transportations, food and medications; plus the stress.
That day on, I often back off if I see a dog coming. Yes, I now officially panic when a dog howl at me.
What the heck is Rabies?
Rabies is a virus usually carried by rats, cats, raccoons and animals alike. But rabies is commonly and easily spread by dogs. Most household has a dog (or more) as part of their families. Since dogs are directly in contact with people, thus, these animals are often times directly suspected as the culprit in spreading the rabid disease.
A person contaminated with rabies virus can only be detected once severe symptoms occur, such as:
ü Over sensitivity with light
ü Detest water
ü Rabid change in attitude – either delirium or sudden depression occurs (often times misdiagnosed as insanity)
ü Uncontrollable eye movements
ü Watery mouth
If victim was obviously attacked by a rabid dog, the dog will manifest the following behaviour:
ü Sudden change in attitude - Sociable dogs becomes rabid and unexpectedly attack and too defensive of people or other dogs as well; while loud dogs suddenly becomes quiet and weak
ü Either watery mouth or too dry mouth (most dogs drooled of excessive saliva)
ü Loss of appetite
ü Rough howling and barking in an irregular time of the day or night
ü Extreme disgust of water or overly drinks too much water
ü In a week to 3 months time (other studies shows it may took 6 months) after the bite, the dog may go seriously ill and die. That it’s why physicians advise to observe dog for 4 weeks or so before killing the animal (as a common practice by older people)
How does rabies can be transmitted?
The big R virus can be transmitted through saliva of an infected animal to another animal or human saliva or blood as well.
Case 1: A 5 year old dog (Dog A) was vaccinated with anti-rabies when it was a year old, and shares a food bowl with another dog (Dog B) who has a positive rabies virus (which owner doesn’t notice symptoms that Dog B is already infected). Eventually, since Dog A vaccine is not boosted up yearly, it will be infected as well.
Case2: Late Fernando Poe Jr.’s dad, actor and real life UP oblates, name, died of rabies. He was infected with the big R when an unsuspected dog licked his minor cut on skin.
Case 3: A toddler kisses an innocent neighbour’s Japanese pitch dog. After a decade the kid died of rabies which they thought at first she only suffered from mental illness. Parents claim they never had a dog and their daughter has never been bitten or attacked by dog.
Case4: A documentary news aired a family whose eldest son died of rabies and the rest of the 2 sibling and parents are now waiting for the big R symptoms to manifest in them because they all share dining utensils. The family were not aware that one of them already had rabies not until he died.
Can our children be vaccinated with anti-rabies as a prevention vaccine like any other vaccines like mumps’ or chicken pox?
It is only a must to have a person be vaccinated if a suspected contact (bite, scratch or even a simple lick) with animals like dogs, cats, racoons, among others occur. Usually, toddlers and infants has no adequate ability to tell if they had been in close contact (as unreported cases) with the animals, parents and guardians must be vigilant enough to secure their kids’ safety; though there may have some paediatricians who willingly gives dose shots.
All pets are required to be vaccinated yearly with anti-rabies.
Where do anti-rabies vaccines available?
Check your nearest health center or local government veterinary office for schedule of free vaccine of your pets. Our dogs get it every summer which our local vet office regularly schedules. If you’re lucky enough, they also give free shampoo and supplements to your pets. Just invest time and effort to travel your dogs with you going to the vaccination area. There are localities that are so lucky that the Veterinary doctors are the ones visiting house to house to vaccinate dogs.
If you had been bitten by a dog, provincial government hospitals (and there are some NGOs) have designated and provided Bite Center (they call it ABC’s) for cheaper shots than those of vaccines given by private clinics and hospitals. Make sure to check availability of the vaccine on the public Bite centers there may have times they run out and will just keep you waiting. Treat every bite from a dog, whether a stray dog or a regularly vaccinated dog as an emergency and must be given abrupt shots ASAP.
You have to pay for the whole bottle of the anti-rabies formula even you were not able to consume all. Once a bottle was opened, it should be disposed soon. So it is wise try to look for someone who has also same need of vaccine as you have so you can share a bottle of the anti-rabies vaccine; that if you had no choice but to go to a private clinic.
What will I do if any of my family members has been bitten?
Immediately wash bite area (or scratch or ant contact area) with soap and water. Wash it thoroughly and efficiently. Then disinfect with betadine solution or and hydrogen peroxide ( make sure agua ocinada should be with equal parts of water so that it won’t hurt)
Rush patient to nearest clinic or hospital which has physician to inject anti-rabies shots. Doctors are the only ones allowed to give the vaccines.
Make sure to follow the given instruction of the physicians as well as complete and observe the schedule of the next succeeding anti-rabies shots. At times like this, you must prepare a cash to pay for the vaccine
If the dog that bites me is a regularly vaccinated dog, should I still have to be vaccinated?
It depends, if you won the dog and you know you maintained a good hygiene on your pet, completed a yearly anti-rabies vaccine and has never been exposed to other dogs outside your care; you may not want to overdo vaccine on yourself. If you aren’t sure of your dog’s health, better see a doctor and have yourself be vaccinated.
But if in case you were attacked by a dog which you barely knew, you should be vaccinated.
If you knew the owner of the dog and the dog is well taken care of, and you still feel uneasy (paranoia still haunts you); you can respectfully ask the owner to shoulder your vaccination (or you can share the expenses, or depending on what you both peacefully settled for).
How much is an anti-rabies vaccine cost?
An average amount of anti-rabies vaccine for a medium built adult (about 45 -55 kg) is Php 12,800.00 to complete the 5 required shots.
Anti-rabies vaccine is divided into 5 series of shots:
© Day 1 – the day the victim is directly in contact with the suspected animal (whether a bite, scratch or lick)
© Day 2 – 5 days after the first contact and first vaccine was made
© Day 3 – 10th day after the first shot
© Day 4 – 15th day after the 1st vaccine
© Day 5 – 20th day and last scheduled anti-rabies shot
If you missed one of the schedules, you have to start with Day 1 shot again to complete 5 shots. So make sure you observe the schedule which your physician gave you. You can’t afford to pay more than 5 shots, just so you miss 1 day of vaccine.
The amount of vaccine prescription depends on the body weight of the patient, thus, the heavier the victim the more expensive the shot is. But if you have nothing to share with the rabies vaccine formula, whether you used all or just a pinch, you have to pay for the whole bottle. Opened big R bottles are not useable for next scheduled shot.
Can I demand to the owner of the pet to pay for my vaccine?
Yes, the law requires them to pay for the damages since their pets are under their responsibility and jurisdiction, unless you trespass from their property and posed a threat to their safety. Otherwise, you can charge them from slight physical injury to major physical injury. There have been no specific law in the Philippines yet against irresponsible pet ownership, which I intend to pursue and encourage our law makers to write and implement.
But if you knew the pet owner and is close to you, you may try to calmly and peacefully settle this issue with them before spending for your attorney’s fee and other litigation expenses. You may surely win the case but you may lose a friend.
What can we do to prevent spread of rabies?
What we can do:
ü Make a way to educate and create a program within your community about rabies. Which brings me to calling the government to have more systematic programs in fighting and responding to rabies disease
ü Start in your home: be a responsible pet owner. Have your pets be vaccinated yearly (yes, it should be yearly vaccination), proper pet hygiene, and feed your pets with healthy foods. If you’re pet accidentally scratches, licked or (worst) bit someone, be courteous enough to pay for the vaccine of the person who came in contact with your pet. If you do not want to spend for the vaccination, better yet do not let loose your pet when there are other persons around your house. A proper lash and pen must be always provided for your pets
ü And of course continue to love dogs. Rabies if horrifying but dogs are still our best pal. After all, dogs are the best company and inexpensive guard at home.
Dr. Cecile Tumulto-Diaz, my son’s Pedia
Philippine DOH Website -http://www.doh.gov.ph/
GMA News - http://www.filipino-tv.info/2010/11/watch-i-witness-november-15-2010-rabies.html