In celebration of World Rabies Day, an awareness exercise to highlight the world-wide campaign to educate people about prevention and the total elimination of all human deaths from this mammal (dogs in particular) mediated disease, the Department of Health (DOH) of the Philippines in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other concerned civil societies launched its #BILISCampaign for a Rabies Free Philippines by the year 2020.

The event, headed by Health Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial was held last Friday at the Acceler8 Co-Working Space in Makati City.

Health Secretary Ubial
Health Secretary Ubial

From 2010-2015, 1,463 deaths were recorded by DOH from human rabies and 180 deaths from human rabies were noted from January 1 to September 24 2016.

A total of 783,879 animal bites across the country were registered in 2015. This is 10% higher than in 2014 when the total number of animal bites was 683,802 cases. Also, 40% of bite victims fall under the age of 15 years and below. The increase in the number of reported cases is attributed to the improved surveillance and services which enabled bite cases to seek treatment at established public Animal Bite Treatment Centers (ABTC) and/or private Animal Bite Centers. As of March 2016, a total of 486 ABTCs are located all over the country, 32 of which are in Metro Manila.

What is Rabies?

Almost all of us have heard about RABIES and are aware of the dangers of being bitten by a dog, a cat or other mammal pets or friends, but are we fully aware of what the disease is all about and its dangers?



Here are five important things you should know about Rabies and Human Rabies Infection:

  1. Rabies is a virus that attacks the central nervous system (CNS) and can lead to a fatally serious illness if not addressed immediately.
  2. Rabies is most commonly transmitted through bites of rabid mammals however, it can also be transmitted through licks on existing scratches or wounds of individuals.
  3. Symptoms are: confusion, irritable, anxious, hydrophobic and an abnormal increase in salivation.
  4. Symptoms of infection may occur weeks or even months after rabies exposure. While the infected individual might seem healthy at first, the virus might already be travelling towards the brain.
  5. Rabies is 100% fatal (deadly) but also 100% preventable.


To sum up, Rabies is a fatal disease transmitted to humans through animal bites or even scratches, most commonly by dogs. It is vaccine preventable, but once infection begins, death is inevitable. In the Philippines, rabies continues to be a public health problem and is responsible for the death of 200-300 Filipinos annually, with children having the highest risk.

What Can We Do?

According to Health Secretary Ubial, effective and safe medicines have been available for decades to prevent the disease in humans and animals. None of these deaths should have occurred since we have the necessary interventions to prevent rabies such as:

  • Promotion of responsible pet ownership
  • Early consultation when bitten by animals
  • Timely administration of vaccines

As part of the rabies elimination campaign, a total of 41 provinces/areas were declared ‘rabies-free’ by DOH and DA, Bureau of Animal Industry (DA-BAI) from 2008-2016.



This year, the government agency is launching the BILIS Campaign, a disease awareness program aligned to the Rabies Free Philippines advocacy. The goal of the campaign is to increase awareness on proper treatment, management and prevention of rabies infection. BILIS stand for the 3 simple steps on how to manage animal bite exposure.

  • BI – Bilisan ang paghugas ng sugat (wash wounds or animal bite wound or scratches with water and soap)
  • LI – Linisin ng alcohol (cleanse with alcohol)
  • S – Sumangguni sa doktor ukol sa tamang pag-gamot (go and see your physician immediately for advice)

Joining Health Secretary Ubial during last Friday’s launch were DOH Spokesperson Dr. Eric Tayag, Animal Health and Welfare Division OIC Dr. Emelinda Lopez, GSK Public Affairs and Communication Rommel Abuda and GSK Medical Director for Vaccines Dr. Christine Dizon.


Rabies Awareness Advocate Rex Toman also attended the event and shared how his child’s death led to his life-long mission to spread the word about the disease and responsible pet ownership.


Pinoy Dog Whisperer Lestre Zapanta and her dog a’Quila also shared some very important insights about biting dogs and how not to get bitten by one.


The event was hosted by animal lover and TV personality Tonipet Gaba (Pop Talk).


DOH, through the National Rabies Prevention and Control Program (NRPCP) in partnership with different agencies and local government units continue to implement strategies and activities to respond to this public health problem. One strategy is the provision of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) in all DOH-recognized ABTCs/ABCs, and Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) especially for high risk individuals and students in high incidence zones. Meanwhile, PhilHealth through its Animal Bite Treatment Package  defrays the cost of PEP treatment among all qualified members.

The DOH has lined up various advocacy campaigns to disseminate information about the illness and how to prevent it. The DOH also encourages pet owners to have household pets vaccinated at designated time periods. Lastly, the public is warned against approaching stray and possibly rabid animals and is reminded to immediately go to the nearest ABTCs/ABCs when needed.


But for us ordinary citizens, we can help the campaign for a #RabiesFreePhilippines2020 by remembering to practice the BILIS strategy. Wash – Disinfect – See your doctor – IMMEDIATELY!



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