KZN intensifies fight against rabies

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pretoria - KwaZulu-Natal is adding another weapon in its arsenal to fight canine rabies. The province is introducing a vigorous vaccination plan, which will span a period of five years.

The rabies elimination project is the brainchild of the KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development Department, and has to date received a donation of R20 million from the Bill Gates Foundation and World Health Organisation.

The department will go on a dog vaccination road show, which will see teams reach even the most far flung rural areas. 

A complementary awareness campaign through broadcast and print media will also be used to spread the message about rabies, which is a potentially deadly disease.

MEC Lydia Johnson warned thousands of people who came to witness the launch of the rabies elimination project about the impact of the disease and importance of vaccination.
"It is by no accident that we meet here today in Uthungulu, as this has historically been the worst affected area in KwaZulu-Natal. 

"As we launch this project, we implore the communities of KwaZulu-Natal to support the mass vaccination programmes across the province, so that together we can stop this terrible disease that should so easily be avoided," she said.

The official launch was preceded by a vaccination programme in the morning, with hundreds of dogs brought by the locals. 

Rabies is endemic throughout South Africa and is responsible for 10 to 30 human deaths annually. It is a fatal disease caused by a virus which affects the nervous system of all mammals, including man. 

The rabies virus is found in the saliva of infected animals. 

The virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected animal, or through saliva contamination of the mucous membranes. 

KwaZulu-Natal has historically been the worst affected province in South Africa, but through innovation has become a leader in the field of rabies control, and has effectively reduced the incidence of the disease by 63 percent in the last three years. 

Only three human cases were recorded in 2010 due to control measures, improved awareness and effective treatment through the Department of Health. However, many cases go undiagnosed, even though all cases are preventable through basic knowledge of the disease and its dangers.

The MEC further warned people to avoid all contact with stray, unknown or sick animals, and to report animals that are acting strangely to local authorities or the SAPS.

She advised people to get dogs and cats, whatever their age, vaccinated, and should anybody be bitten by an animal, to wash the wound under running water for five minutes, followed by use of disinfectant.

In all cases, medical attention must be sought immediately at a clinic or hospital.