A rabies-free Davao City by 2022. This was the goal stated by researchers from the University of the Philippines Mindanao involved in the STOP Rabies program or the “Synoptic Study on Transmission and Optimum Control to Prevent Rabies” as they presented their preliminary findings during a forum held at the university last 25 March 2019.
To achieve this target, program leader Dr. Lyre Murao recommended, “We can intensify mass vaccination of dogs, try to reach 70%. Control the stray dogs especially in urban areas and exercise responsible pet ownership to limit births and movements of dogs. We need to strengthen community awareness and response, and a centralized record system of bite patients among treatment centers and hospitals.” She added, “though rabies-related cases decreased due to intensified intervention, vaccination is still below the suggested coverage rate.”
Dr. Ma. Nerissa Dominguez, National Professional Officer of the World Health Organization Office of the Philippine Representative, also reported that “Rabies elimination is feasible. Our target is zero human deaths from dog-mediated rabies in 2030 as part of the global Sustainable Development Goals.”
An open forum with panelists answered questions raised by members of the audience such as the efficacy of vaccines to which Asst. City Veterinarian Dr. Esther Rayos replied “we have not experienced any vaccine failures” and City Health Officer Dr. Marissa Malubay reiterated that “bite victims should complete the three vaccine shots.”
The STOP Rabies internet and social media sites were also introduced in the forum: the website at http://stoprabiesph.weebly.com; STOP Rabies PH on Facebook; and @stoprabiesph on Twitter. One of the research proponents, Dr. May Anne Mata, performed the song “STOP Rabies” featuring the opening lines, “Rabies, makamatay! Dapat undangon!”
Earlier in the day, pet dogs and cats and their owners converged at the UP Mindanao Kalimudan Covered Court for the vaccination, castration, and information campaign. Some 100-plus pet owners registered and filled up questionnaires on their knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding rabies, and availed of the services.
Teams from the City Veterinarian’s Office led the vaccination for pets. Doctors did the castration procedure which, according to Dr. Murao, “intends to limit dog population and temper dog behavior.” Volunteer veterinarian Dr. Bayani Vandenbroeck also provided consultation services to pet owners.
STOP Rabies is funded by the Commission on Higher Education’s DARE TO program and is part of UP Mindanao’s commitment to convert research to popular public service. It is implemented in partnership with the Davao Medical School Foundation and the Davao City local government.