Dog and cat owners are to vaccinate their four-legged friends against rabies, urges the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) and the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development.
In a joint statement, government and the SAVC says rabies is a risk for anyone with livestock, pets, or wild animals. This follows the death of a 10-year-old boy who died of human rabies last month in the Umbumbulu township, south-west of Durban.
5 children in 5 months
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the boy was bitten by a dog in November 2020.
The family only sought medical care when the child starting experiencing nausea, confusion and restlessness. For him, unfortunately, medical care came too late.
In this incident, the rabies virus was only detected in a post-mortem brain specimen. In KwaZulu-Natal, at least five children aged between two and ten have died from human rabies in the last five months.
Rabies can be prevented
“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.”
Rabies is described a fatal viral disease that affects all mammals. It is transmissible from animals to humans and carried in the saliva of infected animals through licks, scratches and bites. An encounter with an infected animal can result in a painful, life-threatening condition.
Vaccinations saves lives
Meanwhile, government and the SAVC stresses that dog-mediated rabies in humans are fully preventable.
That is why the World Organisation for Animal Health, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, have committed to eradicating dog-mediated human cases by 2030.
With only nine years left for this deadline, experts believe the goal is only achievable if all pet owners take the responsibility to have their animals vaccinated.
“It is the responsibility of each pet owner, in terms of the Animal Diseases Act, to ensure that their pets are vaccinated against rabies,” says Dr Mpho Maja.
She is the director of animal health at the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development.
Maja says by doing this, members of the public will not only be protecting their beloved animals, but also play their part in protecting other people, especially children.
Were you infected?
Communities are encouraged not to touch or pick up unknown, or stray animals, especially dogs and cats.
Humans that have had contact (through licking, scratching and biting) of an animal suspected to have rabies, must wash the wound well with soap under running water, and immediately seek medical assistance to receive preventative treatment.
This is crucial because post-exposure treatment must start immediately to prevent infection.
Furthermore, rabies symptoms in both animals and humans must be reported immediately at a registered state veterinary office.
Now on Food For Mzansi TV
Akanyang Ngakane, an animal health technician at the Gauteng Veterinary Services, explains the importance of her role in fighting rabies. She also explains how the organisation creates awareness in areas where rabies is more prevalent.