Vaccinate your pets against rabies to safeguard your life, says animal expert

The NICD says at least 17 rabies cases were detected in humans by November last year, mostly in the Eastern Cape, KZN and Limpopo. Stock photo.
The NICD says at least 17 rabies cases were detected in humans by November last year, mostly in the Eastern Cape, KZN and Limpopo. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/reddogs

The intricate connection between human and animal health has come into focus with the recent increase in the number of human rabies cases reported in SA.

This is according to Dr Alison Lubisi, research team manager of the diagnostic services programme at the Agricultural Research Council – Onderstepoort Veterinary Research (ARC-OVR), who is pushing for pet owners and farmers to vaccinate their animals.

“Rabies is endemic in SA and we’ve seen horrific cases in humans, with rabid dogs biting small children. It is mostly fatal,” said Lubisi, who is also a veterinarian and virologist.

Animals need constant booster shots or they might not be protected against new strains.
Dr Alison Lubisi, ARC-OVR research team manager

Educating the public about this pressing public health issue is critical, she believes.

“We find vaccine hesitancy comes down to a lack of proper knowledge, so we need to continually educate pet owners and farmers about the importance of getting their pets and livestock vaccinated.”

Lubisi said people needed to be aware of the threat of disease-causing pathogens or germs mutating if left unchecked.

“Animals need constant booster shots or they might not be protected against new strains. Globalisation and global warming are real. We have seen how germs and diseases change their characteristics and behaviour over the years, sometimes even crossing between species.

“I vouch for vaccines. We need to keep telling the good stories and raising awareness. It’s very important to get everyone on the same page for the benefit of us all.”

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), as of November 23 last year 17 laboratory-confirmed human rabies cases had been reported that year in SA, mostly from the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo.

“Although cases are reported annually, the occurrence of cases in these provinces has increased compared to previous years. This compares to eight laboratory-confirmed cases for 2020, 10 for 2019, 16 for 2018, six for 2017 and one for 2016,” the NICD said.

“The increase is related to outbreaks of rabies in domestic dogs in the affected provinces. In the Eastern Cape, particularly the Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City districts, more than 400 cases of rabies in dogs have been confirmed for 2021 up to November 18.

“In KwaZulu-Natal, the eThekwini and King Cetshwayo districts have been most affected, with nearly 300 cases of rabies in dogs reported up to November 18.

“The first occurrence of dog rabies cases in the Cape Town surrounds in decades have also been reported in recent months. Four dog cases were reported from Khayelitsha and Gordon’s Bay. No additional cases have been reported since mid-October 2021. To date, no human rabies cases have been reported from the Western Cape,” said the NICD.

Dogs and cats must get regular rabies shots by law.

Lubisi said companion animals and production animals are an essential link in the public healthcare chain.

TimesLIVE


subscribe

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.