KZN is winning rabies battle

2011-10-20 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL is winning the battle to eliminate rabies by 2013 and has one of the most effective programmes against the fatal disease in the world.

Although the five-year time frame set to eliminate rabies across the province still has three years to run, Kevin le Roux, the KZN Agricultural Department’s rabies project manager, said the prevalence of rabies in animals has dropped by about 65%.

Earlier this year the campaign celebrated a full year without any human deaths attributed to a bite from an infected animal.

Le Roux spoke to The Witness during the three-day annual meeting of the international anti-rabies project established by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is taking place at Ascot Inn in Pietermaritzburg.

“Our success in reducing the infection of animals by about 65%, no deaths in 12 months and the success of the campaign in general, is attributable to three factors: embarking on a province-wide awareness campaign, intensification of our vaccination campaign and also the very good post-exposure treatment provided by the Department of Health,” Le Roux said.

He said the campaign was disrupted earlier this year during the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth disease in northern KZN, which forced the department to concentrate more on foot-and-mouth.

“We are at a critical stage towards the elimination of this disease and we need to work together to achieve what we set ourselves to achieve, as the world is watching us. Our programmes to fight this disease are now being used globally.”

Dr Francois-Xavier Melsin of the WHO’s department of control of neglected tropical diseases confirmed that KZN’s programme is one of the best in the world. He said KZN was chosen to represent South Africa when it and Tanzania and the Philippines were appointed in 2007 to be the basis for the project to fight the disease worldwide.

Melsin said he is optimistic that their goal of eliminating rabies in their three projects by 2013 will be achieved.

• skhumbuzo.miya@witness.co.za

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