Wash the wound with soap under running water. Then go to the local animal bite center for treatment. Keep watch of the animal for two weeks.
These three are the only things a person should do when bitten by an animal, a doctor at the Valenzuela City Health Office said. No applying of garlic poultice on the wound, nor going to folk healers.
“Running water and soap wash the rabies virus out,” said Dr. Matty Torres, coordinator of the Valenzuela City Animal Bite Center (ABC).
Garlic poultice, on the other hand, does more harm than good. “Garlic has corrosive properties and can burn the skin,” Dr. Torres said.
Dr. Torres also warned the public against the folk medicinal practices of tandok and tawak.
In tandok, the quack places over the wound a piece of deer horn, which purportedly draws the rabies virus out of the blood stream. On the other hand, a practitioner of tawak cut the patient’s skin with a blade and sucks the virus out.
In both procedures, Dr. Torres said, the patient runs the risk of contracting tetanus, an illness marked by sore muscles. Its cause, the clostridium bacteria, is present in saliva, human and animal dung, and the soil.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines rabies as a viral disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. It attacks the central nervous system and could cause death in a few days’ time.
The common symptoms of rabies are restlessness and hydrophobia, or fear of water. In some cases, the afflicted’s muscles become paralyzed until the person enters a state of coma.
Rabies has no cure but could be prevented through immunization.
At animal bite centers, the patient is given anti-biotics, anti-tetanus and anti-rabies vaccines.
Two more shots of anti-rabies vaccines would be given to the patient: one on the third day from the day the patient first went to the animal bite center, and another on the seventh day. Each dose of anti-rabies vaccine costs PhP 687 at the ABC. A final shot will be provided if, within the next seven days, the animal dies.
This means that the patient has to monitor the behavior of the animal within a total of 14 days. The animal dying within the time period indicates that the animal is infected with rabies. Its body should then be brought to the City Veterinary Services Office (CVSO) to have its head cut off and examined.
The WHO estimates that around 55,000 people from all over the world die of rabies every year. Most of the cases come from Asia and Africa.
Of the 6,795 animal bite cases recorded in Valenzuela City in 2013, 4,915, or around 72 percent, involve dogs; while 1,809, or around 27 percent, were made by cats. The rest were caused by animals like monkeys and rats.
At 3,793, patients aged below 15 outnumbered those aged 15 and above, which reached 3,002.
The ABC recorded in January 2014 two deaths by rabies, the first ones in the city since 2011.
Both are male in their 50’s, Dr. Torres said.
Responsible pet owners
Most of the dogs have owners, Dr. Torres added. This is why the city government is urging pet owners to bring their pets to the CVSO for vaccination.
“If there are countries that have been able to eradicate rabies, then the Philippines can, too,” City Mayor REX Gatchalian said. “All it takes are responsible pet owners.”
Dr. Torres said an owner should have his or her pet dogs or pet cats immunized against rabies once they reach three months of age.
Since January 2014, the CVSO has immunized 8,698 dogs.
Pending the approval of city council is an ordinance that seeks to control the spread of rabies virus by requiring pet owners to have their pets registered at the CVSO and immunized against rabies.
Also, under the proposed “Anti-Rabies Ordinance in the City of Valenzuela”, the owner of the biting pet would also shoulder the patient’s medical expenses.