At least five children, aged between two and and 10 years old, have died from human rabies in five months in KwaZulu-Natal
At least five children, aged between two and and 10 years old, have died from human rabies in five months in KwaZulu-Natal

Child dies of rabies in Umbumbulu

By Thobeka Ngema Time of article published Feb 1, 2021

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Durban - ANOTHER child died from human rabies in January in Umbumbulu, a township south west of Durban.

At least five children, aged between two and and 10 years old, have died from human rabies in five months in KwaZulu-Natal.

The deaths were from Umbumbulu, Mariannhill, uMlazi, KwaNyuswa and Adams Mission.

As reported by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in January , a 10-year-old boy was bitten by a dog in Umbumbulu in November 2020. No medical consultation was sought until the child experienced nausea, vomiting, confusion and restlessness and died on January 7, 2021. Rabies virus antigen was detected in a post-mortem brain specimen, collected on January 12.

“In 2020, a total of seven cases of human rabies was laboratory-confirmed in South Africa, six of which originated in KZN and one in Limpopo. This compares to 10 laboratory-confirmed human cases in 2019,” the NICD statement said.

“In addition, three children were identified in 2020 who had dog bites/exposure and died of clinically compatible rabies disease. These cases could not be confirmed in the laboratory and were classified as probable cases in the provinces of KZN, Limpopo and Eastern Cape.”

The statement also said that there was a report of suspected rabies encephalitis in a 10-year-old child in KZN based on symptoms (disorientation, confusion, delirium, aggressiveness, anxiety, agitation) and a history of dog bite in December 2020. For this case, post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) delivery was adequate and SARSCoV-2 19 infection rather than rabies was confirmed as the cause of encephalitis after laboratory testing. Fortunately, the child survived, whereas rabies is inevitably fatal once symptoms appear.

Rabies encephalitis is an acute infection involving the central nervous system in humans and other mammals caused by an RNA virus of the rhabdovirus family. Transmission is through dog and wild animal bites.

Laboratory confirmed human rabies cases in South Africa from 2000 to 2020. | National Institute for Communicable Diseases

A rabies outbreak in uMlazi sparked a rabies vaccination drive by the eThekwini Municipality and KZN Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in the area between August and September 2020.

In their communiqué, the NICD said disadvantaged communities were disproportionately impacted, with the majority of deaths recorded in children under the age of 15.

Further south, in Craigieburn, there have not been any rabies cases for months, according to founder of 4 Paws and a Tail Rescue, Nicky Koekemoer.

She said there were no rabies cases in the area and that could be attributed to the fact that she had vaccinated pets in the area.

“There’s nothing from eManzimtoti as well,” said Koekemoer.

“There’s lots of parvovirus but no rabies.”

In November 2020, the NICD said the largest proportion of human rabies cases in the country historically occurred in KZN. Then, 160 canines were diagnosed with rabies through laboratory surveillance.

Daily News

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