Four Paws issues public rabies warning ahead of World Rabies Day
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DURBAN - Four Paws has urged the public to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of disease, protect their animals and themselves ahead of World Rabies Day tomorrow.
World Rabies Day is observed annually on September 28 to create awareness about rabies.
According to the organization, the disease affects mammals including humans, but most commonly dogs.
If a person gets bitten by an infected animal, rabies enters the bloodstream and spreads upstream of its host’s nervous system until it reaches the brain. The host will experience confusion, frothing at the mouth, and madness in the last days of life.
Fiona Miles, the director of Four Paws in South Africa, said most rabies deaths happen in developing countries in Africa and Asia.
“It is almost eradicated in wealthier countries because they have a higher vaccination rate and can treat suspected patients using PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). The cost of this treatment is high and sometimes out of reach for those living in poorer communities,” said Miles.
Dr Jacqueline Weyer, the lead medical scientist from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), expressed her concerns about the outbreak of rabies in dogs in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
This comes after the NICD reported that seven cases of human rabies were laboratory-confirmed in these provinces.
“Most human rabies cases are associated with rabid dogs, hence our concern. The trends of rabies in dogs are directly related to the success of the control programmes in dogs, and therefore the ’epidemiological curve’ of dog rabies cases rises and falls over time. Each rise can be drawn to some failure in the rabies control programme, whatever the root cause of that may have been,” she said.
Speaking on prevention methods, Miles said vaccinations of animals, sterilisations to reduce animal numbers and public education are the only ways to prevent this disease.
“For years, Four Paws has raised awareness and educated thousands of children and adults about responsible pet care, especially in the rural communities where rabies is a serious threat. We are planning a vaccination drive close to Lionsrock, our big cat sanctuary in Bethlehem, where we have seen a number of cases recently,” said Miles.