Eradicating rabies requires ending dog-eating too
CAUAYAN, Philippines––For the second time in three years a rabies outbreak linked to eating dogs has hit the western Philippines, underscoring the importance of ending dog meat consumption if canine rabies is to be eradicated.
The rabies outbreak was declared by the Negros Occidental provincial department of health on March 30, 2017, after rabies killed two men in eight days in Cauayan municipality.
The first victim, Barangay Tuyom village resident Ponciano Deogoro, 63, was reportedly bitten by his own dog in 2016, but did not display rabies symptoms until shortly before his death on March 20, 2017.
What became of Deogoro’s dog and how many other humans and animals the dog may have had contact with is at present unknown.
The second victim, Barangay Isio village resident Basilio Ponce, 65, was bitten by his own dog on January 15, 2017.
Ten people ate the dog
This dog was subsequently killed by a male neighbor identified only as R.G., who served the meat from the dog to ten members of his family.
Ponce was hospitalized before his death on March 27, 2017. Post-exposure vaccination was administered to several of the people who ate the rabid dog.
At least 13 people in March 2015 ate meat from a rabid dog in Cabatangan village, Zamboanga, the Philippines, including four adults and nine children. None are known to have died, but the Philippines National Meat Inspection Commission took the opportunity to remind the public that no government agency at any level inspects any aspect of the dog meat industry, since the entire commerce is illegal.
The Philippines experienced two human rabies fatalities in 2005 and 2006 that were linked to actual dog meat consumption.
The first victim, four-year-old Ressia Mae Edoria, of Barangay Molobolo, Cauayan, Negros Occidental, died in December 2005, several days after neighbors reportedly gave her dog meat at a drinking party.
The second victim, Rolando Carmelita, Jr., of Maasin, Iloilo, died after cooking and eating a rabid dog in June 2006. An investigation discovered that 23 people in all had consumed the meat of three rabid dogs.
“Dog meat eating was banned in Manila,” the Philippine capital city, “in 1982, and nationwide in 1998, with exemptions for dogs killed and eaten as part of indigenous rituals,” recounted ProMED disease surveillance veterinary moderator Tin Tin Myaing in March 2015.
“More recently, the national ban was bolstered by the Rabies Act,” Myaing continued, “which upgraded penalties for convicted dog meat traders to include jail time and substantially increased fines.”
However, Tin Tin Myaing added, “Currently, the Philippines National Police and local authorities do little to enforce anti-dog meat legislation. Many police and government officials in the northern provinces eat dog meat themselves,” especially in and around Baguio, a city of about 301,000 people in the northern Luzon Island province of Benguet.
Myaing, a retired professor at the University of Veterinary Science in Yezin, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, is also president of the Myanmar Veterinary Association.
200 deaths per year
Altogether, about 200 people per year die from rabies in the Philippines, according to public health data most recently reported to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in 2011 and 2013.
In India, by comparison, long the reputed global leader in human rabies deaths, the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence recorded 361 verified human rabies deaths in 2006, but only 132 in 2013 and 104 in 2014.
Dogs are not commonly eaten in either the Philippines or India. Philippine rabies cases known to have been associated with dog consumption have occurred in recent years only along the western coast. Dog-eating in India occurs chiefly in Nagaland, at the extreme east of the nation, bordering Myanmar.
Handling dogs is major risk
“Though the consumption of cooked meat from a rabid animal is not considered a likely route of infection,” commented Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases animal disease and zoonoses moderator Arnon Shimshony, DVM, of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, after the March 2017 deaths, “those engaged in the handling of the animal prior, during, and immediately after slaughter may be exposed to the live virus, justifying selective post-exposure medical treatment.”
ProMED has publicized several recent studies from Vietnam, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Malaysia demonstrating the association of dog meat consumption with the spread of rabies––sometimes from actual consumption of undercooked dog meat, especially brain tissue, but more often with the capture, transport, and slaughter of street dogs. Even one rabid street dog often has contact with dozens of others before being killed.
Transborder dog traffic banned
For this reason, the Vietnamese, Thai, Laotian, and Cambodian governments in February 2014 agreed to intercept traffic in dogs for slaughter along the Vietnamese/Laotian border and the Thai/Laotian border, two weeks after the Vietnamese Department of Animal Health on February 13, 2014 ordered provincial authorities to enforce a five-year moratorium on transborder transport of dogs.
Partially implementing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations strategy for eradicating canine rabies by 2020, the moratorium was reinforced in Vietnam by prohibiting movements of dogs and cats across local district boundaries.
“Can’t fix stupid”
Meanwhile, public health agencies worldwide were in October 2016 left to contemplate the reality that administering post-exposure rabies vaccination is easier than “fixing stupid,” after 13 teenagers in Mukdahan province, Thailand, bordering Laos, dug up and ate the remains of a rabid dog.
“Department of Disease Control head Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk said the youngsters made grilled and steamed dishes, plus ‘larb’ – the spicy Isaan-style minced salad involving half-cooked meat and raw blood – before eating them,” reported The Nation, of Bangkok.
The dog had reportedly been killed by village leaders after displaying rabid behavior, including attacking several people.
Dogs rarely eaten in Thailand, but are exported
Dogs are rarely eaten in Thailand, except in the extreme northeast, including Mukdahan, where thousands of Vietnamese refugees were resettled after the Vietnam War.
Some later established the commerce in dogs from Thailand to Vietnam for slaughter that the February 2014 embargo is intended to stop.
The embargo is to be in effect at least until 2019.