Island by Island

Lifelines profiles workers battling rabies, a fatal disease if left untreated.

NOTE: This film contains disturbing scenes of death by rabies and of animal post-mortems that some viewers may find upsetting. This film is not suitable for children.

Every Monday morning up to 700 dog-bite victims, mainly children, crowd Manila’s San Lazora Hospital. Because the Philippines is a rabies-endemic country, everyone who is bitten needs Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), a series of injections to prevent them from getting rabies.

Bibo, a young boy has arrived at the hospital with his mother with a severe bite wound. The government has provided his first injection but his mother will have to pay for the rest, even though she doesn’t know where she’ll find the money. But if the dog that bit him has rabies, Bibo will die without the treatment.

Worldwide 150 people die of rabies every day. According to the World Health Organisation rabies contracted from dog bites threatens potentially over three billion people in Asia and Africa where more than 95 percent of human deaths occur. 

Dr. Betsy Miranda has said she encourages everyone on her team to understand the devastation of rabies.

“Every time there is a rabies patient, I get my team to interact, to witness a rabies patient and the agony of family. So it is important that even a laboratory aid appreciates that what he does contributes to the prevention of such cases.”

At home, Bibo’s family has kept a close watch on the dog for any sign of rabies. If he gets the prophylaxis treatment he needs, Bibo will be out of danger.

“In Filipino culture, if you have a rabies patient, then the whole household comes with them. They are waiting for the patient to die,” explained Dr. Ferdinand de Guzman at the San Lazaro hospital in Manila.

“I particularly remember two patients who died in this room. One of them was a 16-year-old student, he was so excited to study in Manila.”

Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health profiles the extraordinary work of global health workers in their quest to rid the world of the deadly, neglected diseases and conditions that keep millions of people in poverty.