At least five human cases of rabies have been confirmed in South Africa since December 2017. Picture: Reuters/Pichi Chuang

Johannesburg - At least five human cases of rabies have been confirmed in South Africa since December 2017. These cases were recorded in patients from Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said on Wednesday.

NICD spokesperson Sinenhlanhla Jimoh said another probable case of rabies was reported in the Free State in December 2017, involving a patient that presented and died with the clinical diagnosis of rabies and suffered an exposure to a domestic cat before falling ill.

“In this case, laboratory confirmation was not possible due to the lack of appropriate specimens to do so," Jimoh said. "Rabies in humans can be prevented through post exposure prophylaxis."

“When a possible exposure occurs it is important to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and present to a health care facility for rabies risk assessment as soon as possible," Jimoh added.

She said the rabies specific preventative treatment includes a series of rabies vaccination and the administration of rabies immunoglobulin. Wound treatment including washing and disinfection of the wounds, tetanus booster vaccination and possibly antibiotic treatment which will also be provided at the health care facility.

The six rabies cases mentioned involved exposure to rabid domestic dogs and cats.

“Other animals may also become infected with rabies virus and transmit the virus to humans, but such reports are less common. The rabies virus is present in the saliva of the affected animal and may be transmitted to humans through bites, scratches or other wounds that break the skin and allow the infected saliva to enter the body,” Jimoh said.

Jimoh added that rabies can also be controlled in animals through rabies vaccination. As humans become infected after contact with rabid dogs and cats, the first line of defence against the infection was to ensure that these animals were protected against the infection and cannot transmit the virus.

African News Agency/ANA