Rabies an ongoing issue

RABIES is one of the deadliest diseases affecting animals, according to Dr Nicky Evans, a veterinarian in KwaZulu-Natal.

“There is currently a massive rabies outbreak and unvaccinated pets or pets whose vaccinations have lapsed are at risk.

This places the people around them at risk as well. Once a person or animal is infected with rabies and starts to show symptoms, they will die. It is an absolute tragedy that people are dying of a completely preventable disease.

This is why we advise pet owners to vaccinate their pets to protect both their pets and themselves from this deadly disease, “said Dr Evans.

“People need to take rabies seriously as it is a disease that is almost 100% fatal.

Rabies is completely preventable by having your pets vaccinated by a registered vet or animal welfare assistant trained in the handling, storage and administration of vaccines. “A certificate will then be provided which will serve as proof of vaccination should that animal bite or scratch someone, or come into contact with a rabid animal.

If your pet is not vaccinated against rabies and it comes into contact with a rabid animal, the State Vet will likely order immediate euthanasia of your pet as rabies is a controlled disease in South Africa,” advised Dr Evans.

She also stated that pet owners cannot only rely on free rabies vaccination campaigns to get their pets vaccinated. “It is a legal requirement in South Africa that all dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies and it is solely the pet owner’s responsibility to comply with this law.

The State Vet is already under enormous pressure to provide service to the whole of Kwazulu-Natal. Do not delay in vaccinating your pets while you wait for the next free rabies campaign — people with their own transport should make arrangements to vaccinate their pets at their local vet or SPCA and not rely on State services,” she said.

“Rabies is a deadly but preventable disease. Please vaccinate your pets,” said Dr Evans.

WHAT TO DO IN THE EVENT OF A BITE OR SCRATCH FROM ANY MAMMAL THAT COULD HAVE RABIES

• Wash any scratches or wounds with running water and soap for 15 minutes. Bleeding should be encouraged to reduce wound contamination unless the bleeding is severe.

• Get to a doctor or hospital for a course of four vaccinations as soon as possible (post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP). Do not let a clinic turn you away — insist on speaking to someone that can advise you about vaccination.

If the clinic does not have vaccine, ask them to find out the nearest one that does have it. You have a right to call an ambulance if you need transport.

• PEP is virtually 100% effective in preventing people contracting rabies provided it is started as soon as possible after the bite or scratch.