the recent confirmation of several cases of rabid animals in Lanseria and
Muldersdrift, in Gauteng1, the public are advised to remain vigilant
“Any animal that does not have a
complete record of rabies vaccinations could be an infection risk, and members
of the public should think twice before approaching any animal which is not
known to them, as it may carry this life-threatening disease,” warns Dr Pete
Vincent of Netcare Travel Clinics and Medicross Tokai family medical and dental
Gauteng has not historically been a rabies hotspot, the recent discovery of
jackals with rabies is a reminder to all of us to ensure our pets are regularly
vaccinated against the rabies virus. Mongooses are some of the most common
hosts of the virus, and these small mammals frequently visit domestic gardens,
where they could potentially infect domestic pets.”
Read: Rabies worse scourge than Ebola
The virus is spread
through the saliva of infected animals, either when they bite, or when their
saliva comes into contact with an open wound or the eyes, nose or mouth of another
animal or an individual.
“Most often, people tend
to associate rabies with images of dogs foaming at the mouth. In reality,
however, a wide variety of mammals can carry the virus including cats, bats and
even cattle, and it should also be noted that rabid animals do not necessarily
foam at the mouth. While some rabid animals may become more aggressive, it is
also not uncommon for wild animals with rabies to act uncharacteristically
tame,” Dr Vincent explains.
Preventable in humans
“The best means
of protection against rabies is to avoid contact with stray, wild or unfamiliar
animals and to ensure that pets and livestock are vaccinated. If a person is
licked or bitten by an animal that could potentially be rabid, it is vital to
seek immediate medical attention.”
notes that rabies post-exposure vaccination usually involves a series of
injections for a period of up to a month. “If treatment commences early, within
48 hours, and the full course is correctly administered, humans exposed to
rabies will almost certainly not develop the disease.
This is the one and only
chance of preventing progression of the virus, as once a person develops
clinical signs of rabies there is no cure and the condition is invariably
Read: Rabies, dogs and people
news is that rabies infection in humans is preventable. With timeous treatment
and adherence to the recommended precautions, we can all protect ourselves
against this disease,” Dr Vincent concludes.
What to do in the event of potential rabies
the area thoroughly with soap and water, for at least 10 minutes, in an attempt
to get rid of the virus.
a doctor immediately so that treatment is not delayed.
doctor will likely give you a series of rabies vaccinations. Keep a record of
the dates of each injection and be sure to complete the course.
on the severity of the injury, your doctor may also inject rabies
immunoglobulin around the wound.
How to protect yourself and your family
against rabies exposure:
your pets’ and livestock’s rabies vaccinations are up to date.
your domesticated animals away from animals that may not be vaccinated.
contact with wild, stray or unfamiliar animals in all circumstances.
your children about the risks of rabies and how to avoid exposure.
friends, family and child minders know about the risks of rabies and what to do
in case of potential exposure.
Children most likely to contract rabies
Rabies kills one person every 10 minutes
24 000 Africans die of rabies a year