Pets, specifically dogs, it appeared, have bitten more people in the country last year compared to the previous year.
Records showed that the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) received a total of 79,925 claims for Animal Bite Treatment Package (ABTP) last year, up by nearly 40 percent from the 57,420 claims registered in 2021.
PhilHealth paid a total of P230 million in ABTP claims in 2022, up 28 percent from P180 million in 2021.
Quezon City Rep. Marvin Rillo viewed however, this development quite differently.
“The record high claims betray the surge in animal bites all over the country, and each bite represents a potential risk of rabies transmission,” Rillo said in a statement Sunday as the country marked Rabies Awareness Month. Rio N. Araja
“Right now, rabies already kills at least one Filipino each day,” Rillo stressed.
A total of 370 human rabies deaths were reported in the country in 2022, up 30 percent from 284 in 2021, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
From Jan. 1 to Feb. 18 this year, another 43 human deaths due to rabies were reported nationwide.
“We need more aggressive pet vaccination programs. We also have to improve treatment access to stem a bigger surge in human rabies deaths in the years ahead,” Rillo said.
Rabies is a vaccine-preventable zoonotic disease (communicable from animals to humans) mostly transmitted via an animal bite.
“Dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths” and contribute up to 99 percent of all transmissions to humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The Philippines currently holds the highest dog ownership rate in Asia with 67 percent of households keeping a dog, according to a survey by market researcher Rakuten.
Rillo has filed House Resolution No. 462, calling for a congressional inquiry into the “failed” National Rabies Prevention and Control Program that had originally sought “to eliminate human rabies in the Philippines by 2020.”
The program, established by the Anti-Rabies Law of 2007, had also sought to declare the Philippines rabies-free by 2022.
Rabies is virtually 100 percent fatal once clinical symptoms appear in humans, according to the WHO.
ABTP covers dog bites, but people bitten by other domestic animals such as cats may be covered. Bites from livestock and wild animals such as bats and monkeys may also be covered.
It covers the cost of providing post-exposure prophylaxis services such as vaccines, immunoglobulin, antibiotics, and supplies.