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DOH warns against kissing pets, even if vaccinated, as human rabies cases rise |

Pet Life

DOH warns against kissing pets, even if vaccinated, as human rabies cases rise

Kristofer Purnell -
DOH warns against kissing pets, even if vaccinated, as human rabies cases rise
A pet owner and her cat at Malabon Zoo for a pet blessing
STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) is advising the public to refrain from kissing or getting kissed by pets as this year's number of human rabies cases continue to rise.

A total of 169 human rabies cases were recorded from January to May this year, a 13% increase from the same period in 2023.

Region XII or SOCCSKSARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos) tallied the most cases with 21, closely followed by Region IV-A (CALABARZON or Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) and Region V (Bicol) with 18 cases each.

The reported cases, which led to 160 fatalities, had 92% history of dog bites, 6% had a history of cat bites, while the remainder were from other animal bites.

According to Health Assistant Secretary Albert Domingo, animal saliva is as dangerous to humans as scratches and bites because it could also lead to rabies transmission, even if animals are vaccinated.

Related: PAWS advises public to check cars for strays

He clarified bites will heal but rabies could take its time depending how far the bite mark is from the head. Domingo stressed that it is important to apporach health professionals to assess the situation, such as the need for post-exposure prophylaxis, especially as symptoms could take up to a year to develop.

The DOH advises pet owners to ensure pets are vaccinated against rabies at 3 months old and every year thereafter.

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. in April said nearly 22 million dogs and cats should be vaccinated against rabies in the Philippines. He stressed the need for a budget of at least P110 million, which was backed by the DOH for a widespread animal vaccination program.

"Death caused by rabies is inevitable once infection begins, that's why we urge all pet owners to be responsible and get their pets vaccinated against rabies," said Health Secretary Teddy Herbosa. "This not only protects the animals but also significantly reduces the risk of transmission to humans."

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