Johannesburg - Today is the 17th World Rabies Day, and this year’s theme is “Rabies: All for 1, One Health for All”.
This year’s theme extends from the accomplishments of the 2022 campaign, which similarly focused on the One Health concept.
However, this year’s focus takes a stride forward by emphasising collaboration, equality and the enhancement of the health systems. The slogan “All for 1, One Health for All” is derived from the famous Alexandre Dumas novel of “The Three Musketeers”: “All for one and one for all”. Similar to the perseverance of these fictional characters, this group of individuals overcame hardships and injustice to achieve their goals. This correlates with the struggles experienced with rabies control and how stakeholders need to join hands to overcome injustice (imbalanced health systems) and collaboratively pursue the global goal of eradicating human dog-mediated rabies deaths by 2030.
All South Africans are urged to play their part, stay informed about rabies, and raise awareness within their sphere of influence.
Rabies is a zoonotic disease and humans can become infected by an infected animal. The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal mainly through bites, scratches or licks. Rabies affects the brain and is fatal once a person or animal shows clinical signs.
Animals infected with rabies show changes in behaviour and neurological symptoms. They may salivate, become paralysed, are unable to swallow, continuously vocalise (barking, whining, howling, etc.), and become aggressive. They might also exhibit weakness or unresponsiveness. Although any mammal might fall victim to rabies, the primary threat to human health stems from infected dogs and cats.
Some areas within these provinces have highly concentrated free-roaming dog populations, which exacerbates the spread of the disease, if these dog populations are not adequately vaccinated. Individuals are advised to refrain from unfamiliar animals and instead, report stray animals to local welfare authorities. Rabies may occur anywhere in South Africa and therefore it is strongly advised to exercise caution when handling unfamiliar animals.
In both animals and humans, the disease affects the brain and once clinical signs become visible, there is no curative treatment, and it is 100% fatal. If exposure to a potentially rabid animal occurs, ensure thorough washing of the wound with soap and running water and immediately seek preventive treatment at your nearest health-care facility. Doing this can save your life. It is compulsory, in accordance with the law, for all dogs and cats to be correctly vaccinated against rabies. This measure safeguards both pets and families. Enquire with your local state vet, animal health technician, private vet or animal welfare organisation for access to rabies vaccinations.