The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) and the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) wish to alert members of the public about the risks associated with rabies. Since the beginning of the year, the number of confirmed rabies cases in animals thus far amounted to 33. The department is sad to report that one human fatality, a ten-year-old boy, has been reported in KwaZulu-Natal. Both entities would like to assure members of the public that rabies can be prevented.

Rabies is a fatal viral disease that affects all mammals and is transmissible from animals to humans. The virus is transmitted via the saliva of infected animals through licks, scratches, and bites. Dog-mediated rabies in humans is completely preventable and therefore the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have committed to eradicating dog-mediated human cases by 2030. We only have nine years left to achieve this goal, and it is indeed achievable if we all take the responsibility to have our pets vaccinated.

“A person dying of rabies is an unnecessary death,” says Dr Nomsa Mnisi, vice-president of the SAVC. “The disease is preventable purely by vaccinating animals. We therefore should not be seeing people, especially the most vulnerable like children, dying.” This statement was published on 28 September 2020 for World Rabies Day.

Vaccinating is vital

“It is the responsibility of each pet owner, in terms of the Animal Diseases Act, 1984 (Act 35 of 1984) to ensure that their pets are vaccinated against rabies. By doing this, you will not only protect your beloved animals, but you will also play your part in the bigger picture – protecting the lives of fellow humans, especially children,” said Dr Mpho Maja, director of animal health at DALRRD.

The SAVC and government veterinary services run regular awareness campaigns and will gladly supply more information. The DALRRD and SAVC urge all dog and cat owners to take their pets for vaccination. Rabies occurs in both domestic and wild animals across South Africa. Therefore the DALRRD and SAVC encourage citizens not to touch or pick up unknown or stray animals, especially dogs or cats.

Report any rabies symptoms in animals immediately to your nearest state veterinary office and notify them of any possible human contact with suspect rabid animals. People who have had contact (lick, scratch, or bite) with a suspect rabid animal must wash the wound well with soap under running water and immediately seek medical assistance to receive preventative treatment. This is of utmost importance because post-exposure treatment must start immediately to prevent infection from rabies.

World Rabies Day

The 15thWorld Rabies Day will be celebrated this December. We urge all South Africans to be part of the global community and join in the worldwide fight against rabies. Have your pets vaccinated against rabies and use an SAVC-registered professional to ensure best practice animal healthcare. – Press release, DALRRD and SAVC