BAGUIO CITY— The local government of Sablan town in Benguet has declared the municipality under a state of emergency due to a spike in rabies cases, an official said on Friday.
“The purpose of declaring the municipality under the state of emergency is for us to adopt measures and strategies to contain the further spread of the rabies virus in the municipality and likewise in the adjacent municipalities of Benguet and the province of La Union,” Sablan vice-mayor Arthur Baldo said during a press conference.
Town records showed that there were 43 persons recorded to have been exposed to the virus.
“There were three confirmed cases of rabid dogs in particular at Poblacion as reported by the municipal agriculture office and the rural health unit as confirmed by the regional animal disease diagnostic laboratory,” the council resolution 19-142 approved during a special meeting on July 24 read.
Sablan is the last town along Naguilian, adjacent to Burgos town in La Union leading to the Ilocos provinces.
The first case involved a dog that bit three persons. The incident led to the exposure of eight persons.
The second case involved a dog that bit two persons which led to the exposure of 35 people. The third case involved a “rabid dog” but the animal did not bite anyone.
Those exposed were the technicians who handled the dogs without protective gear, the drivers of the vehicles that delivered the dogs to the laboratory.
Baldo said those bitten were given anti-rabies vaccines and the dog was brought to the laboratory for examination.
The 43 people who were exposed to the virus were also given vaccines, he added.
Baldo said Sablan did not have any rabies case for several years as the town conducted an annual anti-rabies vaccination of dogs and cats. They are able to do the activities with funds allotted in the annual budget for the purchase of vaccines.
“We have been regularly awarded for being the only town in Benguet that is able to annually implement a 90 percent vaccination of cats and dogs. We have been doing this for several years as a preventive measure,” he said.
However, with the spike in rabid bites and exposure of over 40 people, there was a need to immediately address the situation, Baldo said.
The declaration of the state of emergency was to allow local officials to access the Quick Response Fund (QRF) for the purchase of anti-rabies vaccines that cost PHP1,000 for each shot and given four times to a person who is bitten by a rabid dog.
He also said they will also purchase dog collars and leash to contain all stray dogs and cats.
With the help of the provincial veterinary office and the Department of Agriculture, they have also conducted a mass vaccination of around 1,700 cats and dogs located five-kilometer radius from where the dog bites were recorded on July 27 and 28. This will be extended to the seven other villages of Sablan.
A massive information campaign on rabies was also done with the help of the barangay officials, the village watchmen and midwives to contain the problem.
Baldo said they have also disseminated the information to the local governments of Burgos, La Union and the town of Tuba and Baguio.
He said they will continue with anti-rabies vaccinations as he urged the public to bring their pets to the municipal veterinary office.
Sablan has a population of 11,457 and there have been 1,700 cats and dogs already vaccinated.
“Some households have 10 pets. Sablan people are animal lovers,” Baldo said.
Sablan has an ordinance prohibiting all stray animals but it is difficult to implement. However, with the recent development, town officials have approached residents to tie their animals or keep them in a cage, he added.
“At present, we are trying all means to contain the further spread of the rabies virus in the municipality and I believe with this help of the provincial vet, the regional office, and even you the media, to spread the information that everyone should have to take care of their pets. We can positively contain the spread of the virus,” Baldo said./Liza Agoot (PNA)