Travellers coming to or moving around in South Africa are being urged to assist in fighting the spread of rabies during the festive season, especially in high-risk areas in the country. The call came from the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development.
Rabies is particularly prevalent in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, as well as the border between the Free State and Lesotho.
According to Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the department, the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are a particularly high-risk areas for rabies.
He warned that rabies may occur anywhere in South Africa and it is advised to avoid handling animals that are unfamiliar: picking up stray animals and homing them could aid the spread of rabies to other areas and provinces, and put lives at risk.
“The public is advised not to approach or pick up stray dogs and cats from these areas for whatever purpose, and to report such animals to the nearest welfare organisation, SPCA or the police station,” Ngcobo said.
Rabies is a very serious zoonotic disease, meaning it can be passed from infected animals to humans. Any mammal can become infected with rabies, but the biggest threat to human health is infected dogs and cats.
The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal when it bites, scratches or licks a person. Animals that are infected with rabies may show changes in behaviour, but these vary widely from unprovoked attacks to becoming overly friendly or just appearing sleepy.
Furthermore, the infected animals may drool a lot, may not be able to swallow, or may bark, whine or howl continuously. In some cases they may become aggressive or, on the contrary, appear weak and unresponsive.
Ngcobo reminded South Africans and travellers that the disease is fatal because it affects the brain. Once clinical signs become visible, there is no curative treatment.
“Therefore, if you suspect that you have been exposed to an animal that may have rabies, it is important to wash the wound well with soap under running water and to immediately seek preventative treatment at your nearest healthcare facility. Doing this can save your life.”
Wedding music kills chickens
Meanwhile, over in India, a wedding couple made headlines for having a hand in the death of 63 chickens.
According to Eyewitness News, a wedding party was blasting out “ear-splitting noise” as it passed the poultry farm of Ranjit Kumar Parida in the eastern state of Odisha shortly before midnight on Sunday.
Parida said the wedding party was blasting out he music as it passed his poultry farm in the eastern state of Odisha shortly before midnight on Sunday.
The traditional Indian wedding procession encompassed pumping music, fireworks, dancing and a marching brass band in shiny jackets. “I asked the band operators to lower the volume as the music was too noisy and terrifying the chickens. But they did not listen and the groom’s friends shouted at me,” Parida told AFP.
A vet told Parida the chickens had died of heart attack, and he filed a police complaint after the wedding organisers refused to pay compensation. And according to zoology professor Suryakanta Mishra, loud noise increases the risk of cardiovascular events in birds.
“Chickens are governed by a circadian rhythm that is controlled by the natural light/dark cycle of day and night. Sudden excitement or stress due to loud music could disrupt their biological clock,” Mishra said.
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