Rabies claims young farmer
Underberg farmer and top canoeist Graeme Anderson has been declared brain dead after contracting rabies from a stray dog, a family spokesman and doctor said in Durban yesterday.
“We discovered through a SPECT scan on Wednesday that Graeme was brain dead.
“His family will have to make the decision to turn off life-support machines in the next few days,” Dr Grant Lindsay said.
Single-photon emission computed tomography is a nuclear imaging technique that uses gamma rays to see inside the patient’s body.
Rabies, which is widespread in KZN, is a viral infection that causes inflammation of the brain.
Its symptoms include tiredness, headache, fever and pain. This progresses to uncontrolled excitement and a fear of water.
Anderson, 29, has been in the ICU at a Pietermaritzburg hospital for about five weeks.
He contracted rabies from the saliva of a sick stray dog he took in and kept in his shed.
His mother Trish, father Marc and sister Kerry were still at the hospital at Anderson’s side when the Mercury contacted them.
“Graeme’s family is devastated,’ said Lindsay. “They have a difficult decision to make and have asked for their privacy.”
Anderson’s family is hoping that, whatever decision they make, his suffering will not have been in vain and that people will become more aware of rabies and have their animals vaccinated.
Since the beginning of the year, 125 rabies cases have been reported in KZN. Two people have died as a result of the outbreak in the province. A boy died at Emmaus Hospital in May when he was bitten by the family dog “which had run mad on Easter Friday” his mother told officials.
KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture and Environmental Affairs MEC Meshack Radebe launched an anti-rabies campaign in the Royal Hotel in Durban yesterday. The World Health Organisation has also made a donation of R16.5 million to help fight rabies in the province.
Manager of the Rabies Elimination Project, Kevin le Roux, said the money would contribute to the vaccination of about 600 000 animals a year.
The department would roll out a vaccination programme aimed at vaccinating 70 percent of animals in KwaZulu-Natal this year.
Awareness campaigns estimated to cost over a million rand would run across all media to encourage pet owners to vaccinate their animals.
“The Department of Education has also agreed to let children go home and collect pets on vaccination days in their communities. I’ve suggested that there should be a way of marking all vaccinated dogs and cats, so if someone decides to play with a pet, they will at least know if it has been vaccinated,” Radebe said.
Rabies has been completely eliminated in some developed countries but is a danger in SA, especially in rural KZN.