March is Rabies Awareness Month each year in the Philippines where animal bites and the deadly virus is a serious issue.

Close-up of a dog's face during late-stage "dumb" paralytic rabies/CDC
Close-up of a dog’s face during late-stage “dumb” paralytic rabies/CDC

In 2015, a total of 432,458 animal bite cases were recorded by the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) with 226 reported deaths due to rabies.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), 1,701,150 doses were received by The Philippines between January and February 2016. These recent deliveries raise the number of doses purchased by a beneficiary country in collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO) through the OIE rabies vaccine bank to almost 8 million.

Mass dog vaccination in at risk areas is considered to be one of the three key actions of the Global framework to eliminate rabies worldwide, which is the joint approach adopted by the WHO, the OIE, the FAO and the GARC in December 2015.

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

Rabies is a human infection that occurs after a transdermal bite or scratch by an infected animal, like dogs and cats. It can be transmitted when infectious material, usually saliva, comes into direct contact with a victim’s fresh skin lesions. Rabies may also occur, though in very rare cases, through inhalation of virus-containing spray or through organ transplants.

Image/Philippines DOH
Image/Philippines DOH

Rabies is considered to be a neglected disease, which is 100% fatal though 100% preventable. It is not among the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in the country but it is regarded as a significant public health problem because (1) it is one of the most acutely fatal infection and (2) it is responsible for the death of 200-300 Filipinos annually.