A 38 year-old woman recently died of rabies in the Philippines after being bitten by a rabid dog in June. The woman hesitated to seek medication and denied having rabies even up to her death earlier this month. Passive and active vaccines (immunoglobulin and vaccine) were given to members of her family, including her sister who was also bitten.
About $22,500 (USD) has been allocated for the purchase of anti-rabies medication in this particular province in the Philippines. Health officials claim that rabies is among the chief health concerns of the province. Death from rabies seems to be a highly preventable fate in this region, so why did this woman die?
The incident raises the question of who should be responsible for upholding public health measures. Should dog owners be held accountable for human rabies infections because of negligence? Many rabid dogs, however, may be strays. Should the infected individual decide whether to receive medication for a suspected rabies exposure? But, should individuals be left to make their own decisions when they could be ignorant of the seriousness of an infection and the life-saving interventions that are available? Should public health officials or doctors be held accountable for preventable deaths? Rabies is rarely passed from person to person so an epidemic in human populations due to medical inaction is unlikely, but shouldn't health officials treat and protect any individual from disease, especially when a life can be saved?