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Marinduque Battles Rabies Outbreak with Vaccination Drive

MARINDUQUE - Authorities in Marinduque are intensifying efforts to vaccinate dogs against rabies amid a significant outbreak affecting the province's canine population. The local government units (LGUs) are providing free anti-rabies vaccinations, aiming to curb the virus's spread, which has already claimed two human lives on the island.

According to Philippines News Agency, the Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) head, an estimated 50 to 55 percent of the island's 65,000 dogs have been vaccinated. The PVO faces challenges in identifying rabid animals, as symptoms only become apparent in the terminal stage of the disease, often leading to rapid fatality.

The surge in the canine population and subsequent rabies cases are attributed to pet owners allowing their dogs to roam freely, particularly exacerbated during the pandemic. Efforts to manage the outbreak in 2022 faced resistance, including legal pushback from animal rights groups opposing 'selective culling' methods initiated by the authorities.

Recent human fatalities highlight the critical nature of the outbreak. In one case, a 56-year-old man succumbed to rabies after choosing traditional healing over medical treatment following a dog bite. Another incident involved a 16-year-old boy dying from the virus. In response, the province has procured 5,000 doses of human rabies vaccines to prepare for further incidents.

The outbreak has extended beyond domestic pets, with reports of rabid dogs attacking livestock, though these cases remain uncommon. Victoria emphasized the importance of community cooperation to expedite the eradication of rabies, urging pet owners to vaccinate their dogs and restrict their movement.

The PVO's goal is to vaccinate 80 percent of the dog population to create a 'protected population' that could significantly lower the outbreak's intensity. Boac, the provincial capital, has seen a higher vaccination compliance rate, with around 90 percent of dogs vaccinated, as per Luna Eulogio Manrique, head of Boac's Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO).

Authorities are also combating misinformation and traditional practices that hinder effective rabies treatment, advising bite victims to seek immediate medical care rather than relying on unproven rituals. The towns of Boac, Buenavista, Gasan, and Mogpog are currently recognized as focal points in the ongoing rabies outbreak.