Pet owners are being warned to vaccinate their animals against rabies. Picture: File picture

Durban - A rabies outbreak in KwaZulu-Natal has prompted a massive drive by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. According to the department, the province is "besieged" with the outbreak of rabies pandemic which began in the last quarter of 2017 and continues to resurface in different districts of the province but despite the heightened war the department is adamant they are going to win this fight.

Department MEC, Thembu Mthembu, said when it began last year it manifested itself in Ilembe district, especially in Indwedwe and KwaMaphumulo area. It also emerged in Durban.

"Unfortunately we lost a child in Indwedwe through a dog bite during that first wave of rabies. We have since then set aside resources to fight against the scourge. We put aside an amount of R6 million for medicinal acquisitions to roll out a massive vaccination programme. It has been worrying for us that after a sustained stability arising out of these efforts, a new spike in the province arose in March emerging from the Coastal belt of the province which is Richards Bay, Stanger, Durban up to Port Shepstone. We have upscaled our vaccination campaign, public education and building more partnerships," Mthembu said. 

He said they were happy that the SPCA has agreed to join forces with them. 

"There are also a number of Non Governmental Organisations with their interests in animals that have agreed to work with us. This has assisted government in its stretch in terms of resources to reach everywhere, that other non-state actors joins the fight against the scourge. We have purchased an additional 22 vehicles for animal health additionally to the already have fleet of mobile animal health clinics. These vehicles are meant to reach even the remotest of all our rural areas in the province for the war against rabies and other animal diseases in general," he said.

To date, four lives have been lost through cat and dog bites in KZN - three out of four are children. 

"This reality highlight the fact that kids are more vulnerable to the affected animals as they play with them in our yards and streets. More often children do not report any minor bruises arising out of playing with animals and therein lies the danger of rabies penetrating to one’s system to a deadly point," he said. 

Mthembu invited residents to work with the department and get their animals vaccinated and make use of the Agricultural and Rural Development offices were state vets are stationed. 

The Mercury