Recruits trained to fight rabies

2012-09-03 00:00

A NEW batch of recruits who have just completed their training to fight rabies in KwaZulu-Natal, could be the province’s new hope in the war against the brain-infecting virus.

Last weekend the disease claimed its fourth victim in the province, at Mariannhill, and a four-year-old is in a coma in Durban’s Clairwood Hospital having been bitten by two infected dogs back in April.

The 125 vaccinators will supplement the 154 people who are already doing the job of trying to eradicate the disease from the province.

Kevin le Roux, rabies project manager at the agriculture department’s KZN Veterinary Services, told The Witness several people had joined the battle, from state departments to private vets and branches of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

“It’s quite an exciting time for KwaZulu-Natal,” he said.

While the last four years had seen rabies cases halve, there had been a turn this year with as many cases reported in August as there had been in a year.

However, Le Roux attributed this to more improved publicity.

“The number of specimens we are seeing has more than doubled,” he said.

Le Roux also said the province was also recovering from a reduction in rabies vaccines last year when staffers were diverted to the foot and mouth outbreak, which had to be treated as a higher priority.

Last year only 80 000 animals had been vaccinated by April, this year it was 185 000 and in July alone it was 100 000, said Le Roux.

KZN’s rabies tragedies had increased national and even international awareness of the disease, Le Roux added.

“We’re now negotiating sponsorship to assist Swaziland and Mozambique,” he said.

Le Roux identified the province’s “hot spots” as Ugu on the lower South Coast; Amanzimtoti and Mariannhill within eThekwini; Umbumbulu inland of the northern section of the South Coast; Ilembe on the North Coast and the Okhahlamba and uThukela municipalities inland.

He said while the focus of the campaign was on dogs, any warm-blooded animal, including cats, could spread the rabies virus to humans.

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