“Rabies is one hundred percent fatal, but also one hundred percent preventable if handled correctly,” says Dr Didi Claasen, Afrivet’s executive: technical and marketing support, following a confirmed rabies outbreak on the West Rand of Gauteng.
The National Institute of Communicable Disease (NICD) has confirmed five suspected cases of rabies in a jackal from the Cradle of Humankind area. Three human exposures to the honey badger was also confirmed in the Kromdraai area.
This has resulted in a campaign to vaccinate dogs in the affected in the affected and surrounding areas, says NICD senior communications manager Sinenhlanhla Jimoh.
She says, “It is reported that all three cases have received rabies post-exposure prophylaxis and wound care to prevent rabies infection. This is considered a live-saving emergency intervention and entails thorough cleaning of the wound followed by rabies vaccination and rabies immunoglobulin therapy.”
Meanwhile, Afrivet warns that the outbreak of a “rural disease” in suburban areas reiterates the importance of vaccinating pets to protect the human population, regardless of where you reside in South Africa.
Rabies vaccination is compulsory by law, reiterates Claasen. “The vaccine is safe. It does not revert to virulence, nor does it affect your pet’s ability to hunt or its future fertility.
“It is even safe to administer to pregnant animals. Government provides rabies vaccination to cats and dogs free of charge and private practices usually offer the vaccinations at reduced rates.”
In the case of an outbreak, such as was seen this week in Krugersdorp, any pet exposed to a rabid animal will be euthanised if they do not have a valid rabies vaccination certificate and history.
A vaccination is only seen as valid if it was administered by a veterinarian, veterinary nurse, or authorised animal health technician.
This is the only way that government can confirm that non-veterinarians kept the vaccine at the correct temperatures, administered the correct quantities, or administered it in the correct manner. In the interest of human safety, unvaccinated animals would need to be put down.
“If exposed pets are vaccinated correctly and a valid vaccination certificate can be provided, other mitigating plans are put into effect to save not only your pets’ life, but also yours and that of your children,” says Claasen.
“The main message we need to be reminded of during every rabies outbreak is that vaccination of pets is our only hope of controlling this disease.”
Bitten, scratched by a suspicious animal?
- If you reside in an area where rabies is common or there is a current outbreak, it is especially important to report any suspicious animals or animal behaviour to your local state veterinarian or animal health technician.
- If you are bitten, scratched or licked by an animal with changed behaviour, wash the wound or contact area immediately, using soap and running water. Do this for at least 10 minutes. Immediately seek medical attention and inform the attending health care professional that you might have been exposed to rabies.
- The state veterinarian should also be informed that they can examine the animal to determine your risk. The medical professional will then administer post exposure prophylaxis (rabies immunoglobulins and vaccines) according to your risk assessment and exposure category. Reporting these incidents to both medical and veterinary professionals will literally save lives.