FOUR PAWS urges public to take precautions as NICD confirms ten human rabies cases in South Africa
Today marks the day of global advocacy and awareness for one of the world’s deadliest viruses, rabies, which is still prevalent in South Africa.
A spokesperson for the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Lesego Sibilanga, confirmed that ten human deaths from rabies have been reported in 2022.
He confirmed that from the beginning of the year up to the end of August, laboratory-confirmed rabies cases included five from the Eastern Cape, three from Limpopo province and two from KwaZulu-Natal province.
Sibilanga says as recent as August 2022 rabies were reported in two children from the Eastern Cape. The cases are from the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the OR Tambo District.
Considering this warning, animal welfare organisation, FOUR PAWS, has once again urged the public to take the necessary precautions to prevent disease spread and protect their animals and themselves.
The Director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, Fiona Miles, says once clinical symptoms start to manifest, rabies is a fatal viral illness for both humans and animals. However, vaccination and increased awareness of people at risk can completely prevent the spread of rabies.
Miles says, “This emphasises the need for more funding for annual mass dog vaccination efforts. To prevent human cases, the World Health Organization recommends a coverage rate of 70% for dogs in a population. At this percentage of dogs fully vaccinated, herd immunity will prevail.”
The World Health Organisation has classified rabies as one of several neglected zoonotic diseases that affected marginalised populations in low resource settings. The organisation reports that up to 59 000 deaths of human rabies occur annually in more than 150 countries.
According to the Community and Veterinary Services for South Africa only 15% of animals are regularly vaccinated against rabies.
Miles emphasises that several factors can adversely influence the spread of rabies such as a lack of the awareness of the dangers of the disease in both animals and humans especially if there have not been recent rabies cases.
“Rabies education and good communication with dog owners are the cornerstones of a successful rabies campaign.”
It is with this aim in mind that FOUR PAWS was the main sponsor this month of a sterilisation and animal welfare campaign of the Peoples Dispensary of South Africa carried out by Dr Annelize Roos and her team of Envirovet CVC. Similar campaigns have been launched by FOUR PAWS in the Eastern Free State. A total of 150 cats and dogs were inoculated against rabies and sterilised during the recent drive to an isolated community in Bitterfontein, Namaqualand.
Says Miles: “The majority members of this community have very little or no income, and no transport. We believe healthy animals are vital to healthy communities, and that is why pet population control and control of diseases by vaccination is critical. We wanted to reach out and encouraged all pet owners, who would otherwise not have the means to secure rabies vaccinations and sterilisations for their dogs and cats, to take up this opportunity.”
The national plan for eliminating dog-mediated rabies which will run up to 2030, has as its goal to focus on improving animal surveillance in rabies-stricken areas. Sibilanga confirmed that although rabies can be prevented by vaccination, South Africa has been unable to stop continuous outbreaks in hot spots in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, and KwaZulu-Natal. These provinces as well as Mpumalanga are the four known source areas of canine rabies.
South Africa’s strategy to eliminate dog-mediated human rabies by 2030 is based on the Global Framework For the Elimination of Dog Mediated Human Rabies (“Zero by 30” strategy) developed jointly by the World Health Organisation, the World Organisation for Animal health, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in Geneva in 2015.
FOUR PAWS is currently working with experts and governments around the world to call for the holistic One Health approach, as developed by the One Health High Level Expert Panel, to be included in an International Treaty on Pandemic Prevention and Response. This will be vital to ensure we tackle the root causes of zoonotic disease transmission at the source and will enable a much-needed paradigm shift in how we treat animals moving forward.
Yvonne NieuwenhuisHead of Communications ZA
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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.za