Picture: Pichi Chuang/Reuters/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - The Agriculture Department has raised the alarm after five new rabies cases were reported in KwaZulu-Natal.

The department is beginning to roll out mass vaccinations across the province as the drier season approaches.

Three of the five cases were reported in Newlands, Dassenhoek and Westville while the other two were reported in Zululand.

Department spokesperson Phathisa Mfuyo said they were keeping a watchful eye on the situation and were aware of all cases reported to state veterinarians.

“We encourage anyone who spots signs that their pet might have rabies to take it to a state vet,” she said.

Mfuyo said the department’s ongoing campaign to vaccinate was the reason they were able to pick up cases.

She also warned that a bite by an animal with rabies should be treated as an emergency.

“Don’t sit and nurse the bite at home. First rinse the bite under running water for 10 minutes before leaving home for hospital,” she said.

Last year, five people were reported to have died of rabies in the province.

Mfuyo said some lost their lives because they did not treat the bites as an emergency.

“We urge people to continue vaccinating their pets at our state vets and also to be on the lookout for symptoms, especially those people with children,” she said.

Mfuyo said only the Agriculture Department’s veterinary service diagnoses rabies, which meant that all reports emanated from the department.

“This system makes the key role-players aware of exactly where the disease is every day, and it saves lives. Due to the efforts of veterinary services, no human has died of rabies in six months in KZN,” she said.

Mfuyo said they expected more cases along the coastal belt of KZN, where the disease was most prolific.

Caroline Smith, general manager at the Durban and Coast SPCA, said the importance of vaccinations could not be stressed enough.

“The SPCA is not subsidised by the state and is funded strictly through donations from the public. As such, our SPCA clinic does vaccinations at a discounted fee; these services are strictly for underprivileged, unemployed or pensioned pet owners. The state vet offers free rabies vaccinations,” she said.

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