NICD confirms five human cases of rabies

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Five human cases of rabies have been confirmed in South Africa since December 2017, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Wednesday.

The cases were recorded in patients from Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and two patients in KwaZulu-Natal.

The six cases involved exposures to rabid domestic dogs in three of the cases and domestic cats in three of the cases.

There was another possible case of rabies in the Free State, however, laboratory confirmation was not possible.

“Another probable case of rabies was reported from the Free State in December 2017, involving a patient that presented and died with the clinical diagnosis of rabies and suffered an exposure to a domestic cat before falling ill.

“In this case, laboratory confirmation was not possible due to the lack of appropriate specimens to do so,” said the NICD.

Treatment following exposure 

The institute said rabies in humans can be prevented through post-exposure prophylaxis.

“When a possible exposure occurs it is important to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and present to a healthcare facility for a rabies risk assessment as soon as possible,” it said.

Treatment includes a series of rabies vaccinations and the administration of rabies immunoglobulin.

Wound treatment, including washing and disinfection of the wounds, a tetanus booster vaccination and possibly antibiotic treatment depending on the nature of the exposure will also be provided at the healthcare facility.

While the six cases involved rabid cats and dogs, other animals may also become infected with the rabies virus and transmit the virus to humans. The NICD said such reports are less common.

The rabies virus is present in the saliva of the affected animal and may be transmitted to humans through bites, scratches or other wounds that break the skin and allow the infected saliva to enter the body.

Rabies prevention 

Rabies can be controlled in animals through the rabies vaccination.

“Rabies vaccination of domestic dogs and cats are mandatory by law in South Africa and the onus is on pet owners to ensure that their pets are vaccinated on schedule. Vaccinate your pets today,” the NICD urged.

More information is available on the NICD website: –

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