Johannesburg – This year alone, Gauteng has had 38 cases of rabies confirmed in animals, with two cases of human exposure that were nipped to prevent the fatal effects of the disease.
In June this year, one outbreak spread to parts of the North West, that spurred on an intensive vaccination campaign by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development as well as the North West’s Veterinary Services.Earlier on Tuesday the department tried to allay fears of the deadly virus’ spread, saying it had largely overcome a majority of the problems in getting communities to cooperate with the rabies vaccination drives.
Ahead of Tuesday’s World Rabies Day, the department revealed that 31 310 animals had been vaccinated against rabies so far this year.. According to the department, a total of 38 cases were found to be positive of rabies including 28 jackals, one honey badger, two canines, five cattle and two sheep.
Of this number, 32 cases were found in the Randfontein area, mainly in Mogale City (Cradle of Humankind area). “The fact that the department conducts regular clinics (drives) in communities has improved our visibility. In addition, the branding on the current fleet of mobile ambulatory vehicles has made the service to become a well-known brand,” the department’s spokesperson, Andile Gumede said.”On the human side, most dog bites cases are reported voluntarily and in a timely manner. This has enables us to institute preventative treatment measures in time to prevent the manifestation of clinical signs. It is also for the same reason that we have not had any human deaths due to rabies since 2010.”
Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through the saliva or tissues from the nervous system of an infected mammal to another mammal, usually through a bite.
“Dogs are said to be the most common source of rabies. Rabies can be prevented in humans if the correct preventative treatment is administered following exposure to a rabid animal. However, people who have been infected with the disease and develop symptoms rarely survive as there is no effective treatment for rabies. Sadly, many of these fatalities are young children,” ER24 spokesperson Chitra Bodasing Harduth explained.
Currently, the department’s budget for the rabies vaccination project, excluding transport and personnel is R497 000, but even with monetary resources, there are still some challenges to the initiative aimed at helping poorer communities who cannot afford private vaccinations in clinics.
“(The) safety and security of officials especially in the wake of service delivery protests and in some occasions due to some criminal element(s) is a challenge”, Gumede said.
“In suburban areas there is citizen apathy based on the wrong perception that rabies is more of a rural disease.”
Gumede said the high number of jackal cases this year was also mainly because the outbreaks occurred during the animal’s mating season. “We are working with the University of Pretoria to bring in bait vaccine that will be tested soon (by the university). If successful, the jackals will be vaccinated with bait vaccine in future,” he said.
“In the meantime pets (and cattle and sheep on affected farms) are vaccinated to increase immunity in the animal population, thus preventing spread to humans.”
The department asked residents to be aware of all animals (domestic and wild) showing abnormal behaviour. A jackal or wild animal coming into a garden and having lost fear of people and/or dogs was a common sign of rabies infection. Paralysis, salivation, aggression and depression were also a few of the possible symptoms.