Joburg child dies of rabies

2010-10-04 16:37

Johannesburg - A 2-year-old Johannesburg child died of rabies after being scratched by an unvaccinated domestic puppy, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said on Monday.

"Rabies was confirmed as the cause of death in the child who died in a Johannesburg hospital recently… a month after being scratched in Soweto," a statement said.

It was the first confirmed human case of rabies after a "serious outbreak" of the disease in dogs in Johannesburg, it said.

Rabies was confirmed in six domestic dogs in the greater Johannesburg area in the past four weeks. The affected areas were Sophiatown, Bushkoppies, Meredale, Kibler Park and Dobsonville in Soweto.

"These animals were pets that had not been vaccinated against rabies and the source of exposure of these animals is unclear. It is likely that other dogs in surrounding areas could also be infected."

Cases of rabid domestic dogs were also confirmed in Roodepoort in May this year and in Linden last year.

"Until this outbreak, the risk of rabies in Johannesburg was very low, and therefore there is limited awareness about what should be done to prevent rabies disease in humans."

The NCID urged dog and cat owners to ensure that their pets had been vaccinated within the past three years.

"Human rabies could be prevented in almost 100% of cases if correct post-exposure preventative treatment is given timeously following exposure to suspected rabid animals," the NCID said.

Rabies is transmitted from infected animals to humans through scratches, bites or licks on the mucous membranes of the lips or eyes.

The virus cannot be transmitted through intact skin, so touching, petting or being close to the animal is not a risk.

Preventative measures include washing the wound "very well" for at least ten minutes with water and soap, and a course of rabies vaccinations.