Rabies alert: Residents, travellers warned to be on lookout for sick animals

Veterinarian Renee van Rheede of Optima CVC Vaccination in Seaview, Nelson Mandela Bay. Picture: Supplied

Veterinarian Renee van Rheede of Optima CVC Vaccination in Seaview, Nelson Mandela Bay. Picture: Supplied

Published Dec 21, 2022


Cape Town - No matter how much you love cats and dogs and want to pet that stray you come across while visiting the coasts of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape this festive season, don’t – it may have rabies.

That is the message from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, which has sent out a rabies alert to residents and holidaymakers in five provinces and Lesotho.

The other at-risk provinces are Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and the border between the Free State and Lesotho.

According to the alert, the risk of contracting rabies in the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape is particularly high and the department has urged the public not to “approach, touch or pick up stray dogs and cats from these areas for whatever purpose”.

Department spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said that by picking up stray animals and homing them, people could spread rabies to other areas and put their lives and those of their families at risk.

“People are encouraged to rather report stray animals to local welfare authorities and to support these organisations in caring for such animals.”

The department’s notice read: “Rabies is a very serious, mostly fatal zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be passed from infected animals to humans.

“In animals and humans, the disease affects the brain and once clinical signs become visible, there is no curative treatment and it is 100% fatal.”

It advised anyone fearing they had been exposed to rabies to “wash the wound very well with soap under running water and to immediately seek preventative treatment at your nearest health-care facility”.

A rabies vaccination campaign at Pella in Western Cape. Picture: Supplied

Western Cape state veterinarian Dr Laura Roberts said rabies was not endemic in dogs in the Western Cape, where there had only been about five cases of rabies in dogs in the past 20 years.

Nevertheless, she said: “We do have rabies endemic in wild animals such as bat-eared foxes, mongooses and jackals, so no member of the public should touch or approach any sick or tame-looking wild animal either.”

If people came across such an animal they should alert the local conservation authority or state vet’s office.

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Cape Argus