Let's Talk about Rabies.
According to the World Health Organization, there are still 55000 confirmed human deaths due to Rabies each year. Unfortunately the greatest percentage of these deaths are in children under the age of 15 years. Taking into account that some deaths will not be reported or confirmed, we are forced to admit that this completely preventable disease is a major threat. The majority or rabies deaths occur in Asia and throughout Africa, with South Africa contributing significantly.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a lethal disease of the brain and nerve tissues. It is caused by a virus which is harboured in the salivary glands of infected animals.
How can humans or animals become infected?
The virus is transmitted by saliva from infected animals, and can only cause infection if it is exposed to an open wound. This means that if an infected animal bites or licks damaged skin it will lead to infection.
How do I know the animal is rabid?
The clinical signs of rabies are very varied. Unfortunately animals can sometimes be behaving completely normally at the time of the bite. Common signs seen are weakness and abnormal aggression, while wild animals may become abnormally tame. The typical picture of rabies we all imagine is of a drooling, frothing rabid animal. This is realistic, because these animals lose the ability to swallow.
How do we prevent and control rabies?
- Vaccinate your pets! Rabies vaccination is required by law!
- Do not approach stray animals, and do not allow your pets to roam.
- Do not touch abnormally “tame” wildlife.
- Report stray dogs to the SPCA.
- Know that the areas with the highest risk in South Africa are Limpopo, Eastern Cape, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu Natal. Be suspicious of ALL bites in these areas! Do NOT transport your pets into these areas without proper permission, and especially not if they have not been properly vaccinated!
- If you get bitten, do not wait! Get medical attention as soon as possible, because once clinical signs of Rabies develop, there is no cure and it will result in death. Make sure you always know where the nearest medical assistance can be found.