September 26, 2017 / 6:21 PM / 25 days ago

Vets in Philippines turn to technology to track and tackle rabies

MANILA (Reuters) - Armed with smartphones and syringes, veterinarians in the Philippines are turning to technology to fight rabies, using tracking tools to identify problem areas in mass campaigns to vaccinate dogs.

Cases of rabies in the Philippines are among the highest globally, says Humane Society International (HSI), estimating that 200 Filipinos die each year from the disease, acquired mainly through dog bites.

The animal protection group has launched a smartphone app that records rabies vaccinations and geo-tags dogs by location, giving local authorities the means to control the disease.

Ahead of World Rabies Day this week, veterinarians went door-to-door on Tuesday in Payatas, one of the poorest suburbs in the Philippine capital of Manila, offering free vaccinations to help reach a 2020 target to stamp out the disease.

“It is very important because if you don’t map properly, just vaccinating one spot will not help,” said HSI official Rahul Sehgal.

A member of Humane Society International (HSI) administers the anti-rabies vaccine on a dog as part of their mass vaccination drive in commemoration to World Rabies Day in Payatas, metro Manila, Philippines, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

“You have to do it scientifically, you have to reach out in each area, in each corner of the barangay (village) and map the entire city to eradicate rabies.”

Since March, about 16,000 of the suburb’s estimated 27,000 dogs have been vaccinated.

Slideshow (4 Images)

There are 10 million dogs in the Philippines, its Bureau of Animal Industry estimates.

Dogs are responsible for as much as 99 percent of rabies transmissions to humans, says the World Health Organization, which ranks the Philippines among the countries making “great strides” in fighting the disease.

Vilma Flores, who has 10 dogs, including six newborn puppies, was among the Payatas pet owners who queued on Tuesday to get their animals vaccinated.

“How I treat my dog is the same as how I treat my children,” said Flores.

Reporting by Peter Blaza; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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