Six-year-old schoolgirl Carlie second to die after Gauteng rabies outbreak

By admin
22 July 2016

By the time her father got her to hospital, Carlie was paralysed. By nightfall, she was dead.

With her red hair and beautiful smile she was grandma’s little spinning top.

Little Carlie du Plessis (6) had already learnt to drive on her father’s farm outside of Clocolan. She was fluent in Sotho and loved animals and being in nature.

But last Wednesday the Grade 0 learner became complained of feeling nauseous and cold. By Sunday she wasn’t any better and her father Johann rushed her to hospital in Bloemfontein. But by the time they arrived, she was paralysed. By nightfall, she was dead.

Yesterday the shocking news arrived: Carlie had died of rabies.

Professor Lucille Blumberg, deputy director for the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says Carlie is the second person this year to have died of the disease.

The other case was 16-year-old school boy from the Zululand district who passed away in January this year.

There was an outbreak of the terrible sickness in Gauteng after ten animals were diagnosed with it -- six jackals, three cattle and a Great Dane dog that hadn’t been vaccinated.

But despite the outbreak no incidents of people contracting the disease have been reported in this time.

“There was a lot of people that was exposed to rabies but they received post exposure preventative treatment that is 100% effective in preventing rabies,” says Lucille.

“People must distinguish between exposure to rabies and rabies in the brain. Rabies in the brain only happens when a person is bitten by an animal that has rabies and the bite tears the skin. You don’t need a big bite, it only needs to tear the skin."

But she adds that it is important to remember “not every animal that bites you will give you rabies.” Lucille says that annually an average of five to ten cases of people dying of rabies is reported.

What is rabies?

According to the NICD the rabies virus infects the central nervous system and causes disease in the brain. There is no effective treatment for rabies and once symptoms start, death is inevitable.

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

How can rabies be prevented?

  • Vaccinate your pets: You should ensure that your dogs and cats are regularly vaccinated against rabies - it is a legal requirement. Dogs and cats should be given vaccine at 3 months of age, a booster within the following 9 months, and every 3 years thereafter.
  • Avoid being bitten: Not every bite poses a risk of rabies, but a bite or scratch from a stray animal, sick animal, an animal that is behaving strangely, or an unprovoked attack would suggest a rabies risk.
  • If exposed to a suspected rabid animal, wash the wound. Washing the wound very well for at least 10 minutes with water or soap and water to wash out the virus.
  • If exposed, seek treatment as soon as possible.

What to look out for

The first symptoms of rabies are flu-like, including fever, headache and fatigue, which then progresses to involve the respiratory, gastrointestinal and/or central nervous systems.

There may be signs of hyperactivity (‘furious’ rabies) or paralysis (‘dumb’ rabies). In both furious and dumb rabies, there is progressive paralysis, followed by coma. Death occurs during the first seven days of illness.

Sources: Netwerk24, www.nicd.ac.za

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