Press Release: Natal Witness, 13 September 2006
KZN Targets Rabies
By Craig Bishop
Department launches R3 million anti-rabies campaign
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs (DAEA) has launched a R3 million anti-rabies campaign following a two-fold increase in rabies cases in KZN since the start of the year.
This hike could be a seasonal fluctuation, though, due to canine breeding seasons, cautioned KZN State Vet Dr Themba Sikhakhane on Tuesday. The aim is to eradicate rabies in KZN by 2010, she said.
Rabies is caused by a virus often present in the saliva of rabid animals that attacks the central nervous system. Transmission is by inoculation into a wound, usually introduced through the bite of a rabid animal, and rarely by exposure of a mucous membrane or fresh skin abrasion to infected saliva.
Several hundred cases of animal rabies and 20 to 30 recognised cases of human rabies occur each year in South Africa. A large proportion of the human rabies cases are in children.
According to statistics from DAEA, there were 17 rabies cases province-wide in January 2006. This more than doubled to 37 last month, with by far the majority occurring on the Hibiscus south coast around Port Shepstone, as well as in Zululand, as far north as Pongola.
Of these, the majority were found to have been canine or feline cases, with the occasional bovine case.
From 1997 to 2003, a total of 71 confirmed cases of human rabies were reported and all resulted in deaths. Seven cases of rabies were reported in 2001. KwaZulu-Natal accounted for more than 80% of the total confirmed cases reported annually during the 1997 to 2003 period. Data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases show that there were seven confirmed cases of human rabies reported in 2004. Of these, all but one were reported in KwaZulu-Natal.
Sikhakhane warned that statistics for the past five years indicate that rabies cases in KZN are stagnant. He explained that DAEA is examining new strategies to eradicate rabies, including the application of human resources into KZN veterinary services.
A team will be attending a Rabies in the Americas conference in Brazil in October to share experiences, Sikhakhane added.
State vets, volunteer vets and SPCA officials started the five-day rabies campaign this week in and around Pietermaritzburg, offering free rabies vaccinations as well as five-in booster vaccinations, including anti-parasitic and antibiotic treatments to hundreds of animals.
SPCA regional inspector Daniel Stewart told The Witness that packs of feral dogs are increasingly becoming a problem across KZN. As such, the campaign aims to sterilise cats and dogs, thereby reducing the number of feral animals and ensuring a greater percentage of healthy cats and dogs.
The SPCA charges DAEA R100 per sterilisation.