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Gauteng rabies situation 'under control’

2012-06-13 16:14 Johannesburg - A Gauteng agriculture official said on Wednesday rabies situation in the province is under control.

Chief director of veterinary services Dr Malcolm de Bud said most cases were imported by people bringing infected animals from other provinces into Gauteng.

De Bud said human deaths from rabies were preventable if those bitten were treated soon afterwards.

Commenting on the death of Underberg farmer Graeme Anderson, who died after contracting rabies from a dog which licked him, he said it was not commonly known that the rabies virus could be transmitted through abrasions in the skin.

When the rabid dog licked damaged skin on Anderson's hand, the virus passed into his blood stream.

Anderson, 29, who was also a top canoeist, died last week after machines keeping him alive were switched off.

He spent five weeks in the ICU at a Pietermaritzburg hospital before his death.

Gauteng Agriculture MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza said her department had excelled in recent years in its reaction to outbreaks of major endemic diseases.

For example, an outbreak of foot and mouth disease at Karan Beef feed lot outside Heidelberg in Gauteng was effectively controlled.

The 120 000 animals were not put down, and therefore jobs in the industry were protected.

Infected puppy

Last week, a puppy brought from Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape to Gauteng died and was confirmed rabid.

Before it died, it showed typical rabies symptoms, including aggression, excessive vocalisation, biting at inanimate objects, and diarrhoea and vomiting.

Mayathula-Khoza said it was believed the puppy had bitten three people and they were now undergoing prophylactic treatment.

The symptoms varied widely and the onset period could be from a week to six months after infection.

"It is prudent to avoid touching or caressing a strange, injured, or sick animal and rather [one should] call a state veterinarian, the police, or animal welfare organisation."

The MEC said it was compulsory for all dogs and cats to be vaccinated against rabies at three months of age and every three years thereafter.

Free vaccinations

Gauteng veterinary services would hold a vaccination campaign at the Fourways Mall open parking lot, gate five, from next Monday until Wednesday.

The vaccinations would be provided free by the Gauteng government.

De Bude said children below the age of 15 were the most likely to contract rabies and parents should take precautions to educate their children about the ways the virus was spread.

While rabies was under control in the province, periodic outbreaks did occur and the public needed to be vigilant.

"We are not over the hump yet, [a recurrence] can happen anytime," he said.