Health officials in two different areas of the Philippine archipelago are raising awareness of animal bites and rabies as the number of animal bites reported in each region increased significantly in 2014.

Rabies
A canine suspected of being rabid that had been exhibiting signs of restlessness, and overall uncharacteristic aggressive behavior, which are two symptoms of rabies.
Image/CDC

The Provincial Health Office (PHO) in the Western Visayas province of Negros Occidental are calling on animal bite victims to go to their animal bite treatment centers (ABTC’s) immediately in order to get treatment in light of the dramatic increase in animal bite recorded last year.

There were 11, 572 cases of animal bites in Negros Occidental in 2014, which was almost doubled from the 6, 831 cases back in 2013. The Western Visayas recorded 10 human rabies fatalities in 2014 with 4 of the victims from Negros Occidental and 1 from Bacolod City.

According to PHO Rabies Provincial Coordinator Josephine Nonato, 98% of rabies cases were caused by licks or bites from dogs, 1.2% from cats and 0.8 from other animals such as carabaos, goats and pigs, among others.

Related: Philippines: Infected dog meat results in rabies PEP for 13 in Zamboanga

South on Mindanao island, an increase in animal bites and subsequently, human rabies deaths were recorded in Davao in 2014, according to a Sun Star report. The report states that DOH rabies program coordinator in the region, Mary Divene Hilario said there were 33,199 animal bite cases last year, up from 20,684 in 2013. In addition, human rabies deaths rose to 22 from 16 during the same period, all in young boys.

Rabies is an acute infection of the central nervous system caused by the rabies virus. It affects mammals like dogs, cats, foxes, bats and humans. When humans are bitten, scratched or licked over their broken skin by an infected animal, the virus in the saliva of the infectedanimal enters the human body through the wound and travels through nerves to the brain, leading to encephalitis.

The incubation period of rabies may last for a few days to several years, but it is usually three to eight weeks. The initial symptoms may be nonspecific flu-like symptoms such as malaise, fever, or headache, which may last for days. There may be numbness and tingling around the site of the wound. These are followed after a few days by anxiety, confusion, spasm of swallowing muscles, paralysis, coma and death.

Related: Japanese encephalitis in the Philippines: Vaccine should be part of national schedule according to researchers