Rabies – prevention is better than cure

  • 02 Oktober 2020
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This year’s awareness drive, #RabiesEndsHere, aimed to raise awareness about the impact of human and animal rabies, how easy it is to prevent it, and how to eliminate the main global sources.

According to the World Health Organisation an estimated 55 000 human deaths occur worldwide per year due to canine rabies, accounting for 1 death and 300 exposures every 15 minutes. Almost all human fatalities occur in developing countries with 56 percent occurring in Asia and 44 percent in Africa. In light of this, the DALRRD, the National Animal Health Forum (NAHF) and the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) have urged pet- and animal owners to vaccinate their animals against this deadly disease.

More about Rabies

Rabies is a zoonotic disease (a disease which people get from animals). It is caused by a virus which affects the brain and causes death.

The virus is shed in saliva and is spread by the bite of an infected animal. In South Africa, people are usually infected by dogs, but other animals such as cats, mongooses, jackals and other wild animals can also infect people.

While most people visualise a rabid animal as a foaming-at-the-mouth and an aggressive dog, unexplained paralysis and a change in behaviour are the most typical signs of rabies in animals. Other clinical signs that a rabid animal may or may not exhibit are varied, e.g. not eating, or eating non-food items, pawing at the mouth, appearing to be choking, having difficulty swallowing, chewing a bite wound if present, seizures, abnormal howling, or exhibiting hypersensitivities to touch or sound.

Human beings get flu-like symptoms when they’ve contracted the disease. As the disease progresses, humans also become aggressive and hallucinate. Furthermore, the person can develop hydrophobia and become reluctant to drinking water. Eventually, the person will fall into a coma, become paralysed, and die. When someone is bitten by an animal who is suspected to have the disease, they should wash the wound under running water and immediately seek medical assistance.