Rabies Awareness Month: Encouraging Philippine communities in the fight against rabies

Ceremonial turnover of lesson plans by GARC and the Philippine Department of Education to the NRPCC
Ceremonial turnover of lesson plans by GARC and the Philippine Department of Education to the NRPCC. Photo: GARC

In the Philippines, the month of March is celebrated as Rabies Awareness Month (RAM) every year as decreed by presidential executive order. A massive information campaign around rabies prevention/control is conducted, along with a free, mass dog vaccination campaign throughout the entire country. This year’s event was centered around the theme of “ “Maklisa sa barangayan kontra rabies, maging responsableng pet owner. (Community as one against rabies, be a responsible pet owner)”. A national kick-off celebration was held on March 1, 2019 in Manila City and was attended by community leaders, government veterinarians, and members of the National Rabies Prevention and Control Committee (NRPCC).

Ceremonial dog vaccination during Rabies Awareness Month. Photo: GARC
Ceremonial dog vaccination during Rabies Awareness Month. Photo: GARC
Rabies Awareness Month the Philippines 2019
Rabies Awareness Month poster in the Philippines, March 2019

The highlight of the celebration was a ceremonial dog vaccination, as well as the ceremonial turnover of eight lesson plans on rabies prevention to the NRPCC. These lesson plans were developed through a two-year collaboration between GARC and the Department of Education. Additionally, the best implementation of a barangay (village) rabies program in Manila was recognized to highlight the importance of community participation in rabies control.

Many creative and diverse approaches were used to share life-saving rabies prevention messages and advocate for responsible pet ownership to reach different audiences around the country.

The Armed Forces Veterinary Service Center conducted an early childhood rabies awareness activity for 62 preschool and kindergarten students of the St. Ignatius School at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in QuezonsCity. They used GARC’s educational materials including the storybook and Knowledge Channel video, Bino, Buboy, Bantay, Friends Forever, to educate  children on how to take care of dogs, the importance of reporting bites to parents/guardians, and how to prevent and manage bites. Parents and guardians were also given information on rabies prevention and responsible pet ownership.

Dog walk fun run Muntinlupa City for Rabies Awareness Month March 2019
Dog walk fun run Muntinlupa City for Rabies Awareness Month March 2019. Photo: GARC

A rabies conference was organized by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). The event was attended by more than 80 participants, including researchers, laboratory personnel, and local program implementers. Global updates on rabies, as well as findings from RITM collaborations with different research organizations were presented. Topics included the latest animal bite management protocol from WHO; the importance of inter-sectoral collaboration to control rabies; the use of a rapid diagnostic test kit for rabies; and the use of muzzle hair to detect rabies in dogs. GARC presented on its Community Based Rabies Surveillance project that was recently implemented in Muntinlupa City.

A dog walk and fun run for pet owners and their dogs was organized as an entertaining and healthy way to celebrate Rabies Awareness Month. The City Veterinary Office of Muntinlupa City organized the run, and there were a total of 112 humans and 87 dogs that joined the activity. According to Dr. Pamela Hernandez, City Veterinarian, the fun run promoted responsible pet ownership and helped develop bonding  between pets and their owners through different activities. She stated, “By becoming responsible pet owners, the health and welfare of the animals are not neglected. Through this, rabies can be prevented by becoming responsible in the yearly vaccination of their pets and caring for [their pet] as a family member.”

Written by Dr. Sarah Jayme, GARC Asia Representative, with reports from the Communications Engagement Office of RITM, First Lieutenant Dianne Licuan of AFP Veterinary Corps. and Dr. Pamela Hernandez, City Veterinarian of Muntinlupa City.

Note: The National Rabies Prevention and Control Committee (NRPCC) consists of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Animal Industry, Department of Health–Disease Prevention and Control Bureau, and the Philippines Veterinary Medical Association.