Rabies is a contagious and deadly viral disease that causes damage to the brain and the spinal cord.
It affects both humans and animals, and in most cases it results in death once the disease symptoms develop.
How is rabies spread?
The rabies virus is found in the saliva and nervous tissue of infected animals. It is transmitted to humans and other animals through contact with the saliva or tissue of an infected animal; bites, scratches, licks on broken skin and mucous membranes. Once the symptoms of the disease develop, rabies becomes fatal to both humans and animals.
What are the symptoms of rabies in humans?
Rabies symptoms may occur as early as one week and as late as several years after contact with, or bite from an infected animal. Seek treatment immediately after an animal bite. Do not wait for symptoms to develop.
The symptoms in humans include: headache and fever; irritability, restlessness and anxiety; muscle pains, malaise, hydrophobia (fear of water) and vomiting; hoarse voice; paralysis; mental disorder; profuse salivation; and difficulty swallowing.
What to do following a bite or contact with a suspected rabid animal
If you had been bitten or had contact with a dog or stray animal, a pet or farm animal that is behaving strangely (wild animals become friendly or domestic animals become wild), take the following steps:
Wash the wound with clean water and soap immediately for at least ten minutes; Apply an antiseptic ethanol or iodine; Immediately consult a doctor for treatment and advice; and Contact your nearest state veterinarian, clinic or doctor.
When should you suspect that an animal is infected with rabies?
Suspect that an animal is infected with rabies when it shows behavioural changes such as restlessness, irritability, excitability and shyness.
How do animals become infected?
When bitten by an infected animal; During a fight between a pet and an unknown or stray animal; and
Injuries of unknown origin in a domestic animal.
How is rabies controlled?
Immediately isolate the suspected animal and inform your state veterinarian.
Have your dogs and cats vaccinated regularly (all pets three months or older must be vaccinated).
Do not allow your pets to roam the streets. Do not handle animals suspected of being infected. Rabies is a dangerous infection.
Report all suspected rabies cases to your nearest state veterinarian, animal health technician or to the police.
What animals are most often implicated in rabies transmission?
Domestic: dogs, cats, sheep, goats, horses, donkeys, pigs and guinea pigs.
Wild: mongoose, suricate mongoose, civet, small spotted genet, caracal, serval, lion, African wildcat, small-spotted cat, felid species, honey badger, striped polecat, striped weasel, black-backed jackal, bateared fox, wild dog, Cape fox, aardwolf, brown hyena, ground squirrel, tree squirrel, greater cane cat, cape hyrax, Chakma baboon, warthog, impala, duiker, steenbok, kudu, eland, blesbok, bushbuck, reedbuck, springbok, Burchell's zebra, herbivore species and scrub hare.
Phone 044 873 5527 to get the contact detail of the state veterinarian in your district.