Two little boys, aged 2 and 5, make up SA’s first two human rabies cases for 2023

A dog with rabies. File picture.

A dog with rabies. File picture.

Published Apr 2, 2023


Durban — Two little boys from Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal made up South Africa’s first two human rabies cases for 2023.

That was according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) March 2023 communiqué.

The NICD said that the first two cases of human rabies for 2023 were reported in February and March from Limpopo and KZN provinces respectively.

It said that the case from Limpopo involved a 2-year-old boy from Thohoyandou, Vhembe District, who was scratched by a dog on the face and neck in December 2022.

“The child did not receive rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) at the time of the incident. On February 17, the child began to exhibit rabies symptoms, including fever, malaise, nausea, vomiting, anorexia, seizures, insomnia, confusion, delirium, hypersalivation, aggressiveness, agitation, hyperactivity, generalised weakness and hypotonia. He died in hospital 10 days after the onset of symptoms,” the NICD said.

It said that a pre-mortem saliva sample submitted to the NICD Special Viral Pathogens Laboratory (SVPL) tested positive for rabies.

The NICD said that the second case involved a 5-year-old boy from Empangeni, King Cetshwayo District, KZN.

“Although there was no report of an animal bite, it is presumed that he encountered a rabid animal in the months prior to his death and did not receive PEP. The exact date of the onset of rabies symptoms is not known, however, the child exhibited symptoms of fever, weakness, choking, vomiting, hallucinations, violent behaviour, hydrophobia, dysphagia, and hypersalivation. He later died in a local hospital on February 27, 2023,” the NICD said.

It said that a diagnosis of rabies was confirmed on a post-mortem skin biopsy sample submitted to the NICD SVPL early in March.

Human rabies cases in South Africa in 2023, as of 24 March 2023 (NHLS-NICD data source).

“These cases highlight the need for prompt rabies PEP following exposure to a rabid animal to prevent the occurrence of human rabies. The World Health Organization recommends a One Health approach that involves mass dog vaccination, rabies risk awareness and community engagement, proper wound care, and prompt rabies PEP for the prevention of rabies,” the NICD concluded.

Reacting to the death of the five-year-old boy in KZN, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Super Zuma called for communities to work with the department in the fight against rabies.

Last month, Zuma visited the Msane family in Thafeni, under the uMlalazi Municipality.

Zuma expressed his condolences to the family, relatives, friends and the local community.

“I am asking the family and the local community to cooperate with us in the fight against rabies.

“We as the department and the government of KwaZulu-Natal are saddened to hear the tragic news of the death of a 5-year-old child due to rabies,” said Zuma.

WhatsApp your views on this story at 071 485 7995.

Daily News