Child dies after ‘mad’ dog’s bite

2012-05-19 00:00

AS an Underberg farmer infected with rabies is fighting for his life, a Bergville boy died after his family dog bit him last month.

Sapa quotes provincial Agriculture Department spokesperson Jeffrey Zikhali as saying senior provincial animal health technicians were on their way to examine whether the boy had contracted rabies.

The boy died at Emmaus Hospital on Thursday night. The minor and his father were bitten by their dog “which had run mad on Easter Friday”, April 6, the mother told officials.

Zikhali said the dog was vaccinated on April 4 during a vaccination programme in the area. The boy initially showed no worrying symptoms.

“His mother said he started vomiting on Thursday and was taken to Emmaus hospital.

Zikhali said seven cases of rabies were recorded in Bergville in January. “We had nine cases in February, 10 cases in March and the figures dropped in April to three cases. If confirmed, this may be the only case for May.”

During a campaign that started in January, 4 985 dogs and 767 cats were vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the condition of Graeme Anderson (29), the Underberg farmer who was diagnosed with rabies, has improved.

Dr Grant Lindsay, a friend and spokesperson for the Anderson family, said yesterday that his condition was stable and his vital signs had improved.

Doctors had placed him in a coma in order to treat him, and started bringing him slowly out of his coma on Wednesday.

Lindsay said that while Anderson was not yet conscious the next three to five days would be critical. “Then we will know where we are.”

He said yesterday marked 14 days that Anderson had been sedated.

Anderson was in contact with a rabid dog about seven weeks ago, which he nursed until it died.

He then went on holiday to Mozambique, but returned when he became ill. He was initially diagnosed with sinusitis, but his condition got worse and he was admitted to hospital.

He was sedated for treatment in terms of the Milwaukee protocol.

Lindsay explained: “This [treatment] cannot cure rabies, but a handful of people have survived as a result of it. It involves heavily sedating people who have rabies for about 10 days to try to protect the brain in the hope that during this period it will manufacture antibodies to fight the disease.

“After 10 days the patient’s sedation dose is then systematically reduced over a period of about a week.

“There is definitely a chance that Anderson can survive this.”

Since the beginning of the year 97 confirmed cases of rabies in animals have been reported in KwaZulu-Natal.

• thamsanqam@witness.co.za

KEVIN le Roux, manager of the rabies project in KwaZulu-Natal, says there has been a major outbreak of rabies in the Winterton/Bergville area this year and 43 cases in dogs and cats had been reported since December.

Bergville district farmer Christoff Brits’s four-month-old dachshund, which was too young to be inoculated, bit nine people after having become infected and the victims had to be inoculated against the virus weekly for five weeks.

Le Roux said state vets were not able to inoculate all the animals in the province and therefore targeted only certain areas.

“Pet owners are, however, obliged by law to have their animals inoculated,” he said.

He warned people never to touch an unknown or stray dog. “Rabies does not always equal an aggressive dog that’s dribbling from the mouth. Any unknown animals are therefore a threat.”

The central Midlands, including Estcourt, Winterton and Bergville, and parts of northern KZN areas like Ladysmith are on high alert as several cases of rabies have been reported.

Bergville vet Dr Hilgaard Muller said the area was experiencing the worst outbreak of rabies since he moved there 19 years ago. He was aware of at least 47 cases of rabies. “A farmer had to put down eight sheep after they were bitten by dogs. And one horse and a cow had been put down because of the disease,” said Muller.

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