1 000 pets to be vaccinated for World Rabies Day after Khayelitsha outbreak

By Murphy Nganga Time of article published Sep 28, 2021

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Cape Town– Given the prevalence of rabies-infected dogs in the region, the Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha hopes to vaccinate 1 000 dogs in one day in an attempt to raise awareness and share information about rabies prevention.

World Rabies Day was observed globally on Tuesday, and is marked on the death date of Louis Pasteur in 1895, who helped develop a vaccine against the disease.

The insurgence of rabies-infected dogs in the area has been a simmering problem since last month where cases of rabies were confirmed by the Department Agriculture’s veterinary services.

Mdzananda Animal Clinic general manager Heidi May said that vaccinating potential rabies-infected dogs in the area has never been more vital, given the cases presented in the area.

“It is essential to vaccinate your dogs against rabies, and now even more so, as we’ve had cases presented in Khayelitsha. Symptoms include fever, difficulty swallowing, excessive drooling, staggering, seizures and aggression. There is no specific treatment for rabies, however, once symptoms appear it's nearly always fatal, hence a vaccine can always prevent infection,” she said.

In an effort to fight this surge, the clinic will be hosting a mass vaccination day on Saturday, October 2 where pets of the community can receive vaccinations. The Clinic is, however, asking members of the public to sponsor a dog for R50 and this will cover the costs of the vaccination, needles, syringes and gloves. Each pet will also receive a vaccination against other deadly diseases, including parvo virus, distemper, parainfluenza and adenovirus.

According to worldwide data, rabies kills at least one person every nine minutes and more than 70 000 people die from this virus each year, with Africa and Asia accounting for 95% of these fatalities, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.

SPCA spokesperson Belinda Abraham said that while the disease is transmitted mainly via a bite, rabies prevention starts with the owner taking responsibility and getting their pet vaccinated.

“Rabies is a viral zoonotic disease (transmissible from animals to humans) that causes progressive and fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. The disease is transmitted mainly via a bite, but exposure may also occur through contamination of broken skin or mucous membranes with saliva from an infected animal.

“Rabies prevention starts with an animal owner. Vaccinations are needed to protect our pets from devastating, life threatening diseases, boost our pets’ immunity to certain diseases, and prevent pets from passing on a disease like rabies to humans.

“Pets should be vaccinated against rabies at 12 weeks old, nine months after the 12 week vaccine, and then every three years thereafter. Protect yourself, your pet and your community by ensuring that your animals are vaccinated. Please be vigilant and avoid domestic animals if they display behaviour that is out of character for them, and wild animals which appear tame or do not run from you. If you are bitten, wash bite wounds with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately. If your pet is bitten, consult your veterinarian immediately,” said Abraham.

Minister of Agriculture, land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza said in a statement that while the nation commemorates the 15th annual World Rabies Day, the government is dedicated to having zero human fatalities due to dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

“Vaccination of dogs and cats against rabies is required by law. It is vitally important that every pet owner, in all walks of life, have their dogs and cats vaccinated in order to protect our communities against this disease.

“South Africa is committed to the global ’Zero by 30’ drive. The goal is to have zero human deaths due to dog-mediated rabies by 2030. This can be achieved through adequate vaccination of dog (and cat) populations, as well as provision of treatment to humans that have been exposed to rabid animals” said Didiza.

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