Rabies outbreak under control in Gauteng

Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Nthambeleni Gabara

Johannesburg - The outbreak of rabies in Gauteng is fully under control despite an incident where three people were bitten by a puppy with suspicious behavioural symptoms of the disease.

Agriculture, Rural and Social Development, chief director veterinary services, Dr Malcom de Bude said they had experienced an imported case of rabies into Gauteng from other provinces.

"We can confirm that the outbreak of rabies in this province is fully under control. Since the 11 cases were confirmed last September, we've successfully brought it under control because no case has been reported except the imported ones," he said.

Agriculture, Rural and Social Development MEC, Nandi Mayathula-Khoza said the puppy which bit the three people was rescued in Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape and brought back to the province by a Chartwell family.

She said back in Gauteng, the puppy fell sick and was taken to the Chartwell Veterinary Clinic after it became aggressive, excessive vocalisation and biting of fence around the home, diarrhoea and vomiting.

On 3 June, the puppy developed further neurological signs of incoordination, depression and scratching of the head, and then later died.

The MEC said laboratory tests were conducted and returned positive for rabies, adding that the people who were bitten are currently on rabies post exposure prophylactic treatment.

This is the third case in the past 18 months of an animal which was brought into Gauteng from neighbouring provinces and later tested positive for rabies.

In the first case, a dog belonging to a Pretoria building contractor was taken along to KwaZulu-Natal and on returning it started showing suspicious signs of rabies which were later confirmed positive.

The second was a family cat brought into Gauteng by a relocating family from KwaZulu-Natal to Craighavon.

"As a department, we wish to re-emphasise that it is compulsory for all dogs and cats to be vaccinated against rabies, failure to vaccinate domestic pets is illegal and is a grave public health risk.

"Members of the public should avoid touching or caressing strange, stray, injured or sick animals," she said.

The MEC said any person or domestic pet which has been bitten by a stray animal which has shown signs suspicious of rabies should immediately contact their local state veterinarian or local health authority.

She said any domestic dog or cat older than three months which has not been vaccinated for rabies should immediately be taken to the veterinarian for a health check and vaccinated.

Mayandula-Khoza said the province will have a booster vaccination campaign at the Fourways Mall open park lot, gate 5, from 18 to 20 June starting from 9am until 5pm.

"This service is offered at no cost to the pet owner by the provincial government, but the public can still choose between having the vaccination of their pets done by their private veterinarian (at a cost) or by the State."

Rabies is a highly contagious disease, which can be transmitted to people. It affects the nerves and brain of all mammals and can be fatal.

It is transmitted to humans and other animals through contact with saliva or tissue of infected animals. Most often this is through the bite of an infected animal.

Symptoms vary widely and include behavioural changes, aggressiveness and paralysis. In humans, the symptoms include headache and fever, irritability, restlessness and anxiety, muscle pains, malaise and hydrophobia, vomiting, hoarse voice, paralysis, mental disorder, profuse salivation and difficulty swallowing.

Rabies post-exposure treatment helps to prevent the development of the disease, but the bite wound must be washed immediately with soap and water.

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