Rabies outbreak warning in Midlands

2015-02-04 00:00

EXPERTS have warned about the threat of a rabies outbreak in the Midlands, and urged pet owners to have their dogs and cats vaccinated.

Rabies is a viral disease that causes acute inflammation of the brain in humans and other warm-blooded animals, according to Wikipedia.

Veterinary House Hospital’s Dr Philip Kretzmann said the disease has been diagnosed in three jackals in the Midlands — two from the Estcourt area near Wagendrift Dam and one near Nottingham Road.

“This hardly constitutes an outbreak but is enough to create concerns,” Kretzmann said yesterday.

“The strain of rabies is traditionally maintained in the feral dog population and the control of the disease is focused on vaccinating our domestic animals.

“If it is becoming entrenched in the jackal population then this creates a different dynamic, particularly as the jackal population appears to be expanding.”

Midlands Conservancies said there was a serious outbreak of canine rabies in the Okhahlamba area in 2012, but the disease was contained after an intense vaccination campaign.

“We can consider the whole of the Midlands area now a potentially endemic jackal rabies area. Rabies in jackal can be cyclical and is dependent on the jackal population,” the organisation said.

“We can expect rabies in other wildlife species and spillovers into cattle, other livestock and in unvaccinated dogs. Be vigilant and vaccinate all cats and dogs and other livestock at risk.”

Kretzmann said animals that have been adequately vaccinated should be well protected from the disease. The minimum suggested vaccination protocol is two vaccinations within the first year of life and then every three years. “People should be aware that any animal showing changes in behaviour should be viewed with suspicion. Domesticated animals frequently become vicious but this is not always the case,” he warned.

“Wildlife often become tame, showing limited fear of people. They might even try to enter houses, or sheds. People should not try and approach these animals.”

Kretzmann advised people to contact their local vet if they are unsure whether their pets have been adequately vaccinated.

He said people are obligated to notify the state vet of any animals showing suspicious behaviour.

Martin de Scally of Hilton Veterinary Hospital said: “The jackal rabies is the same strain that dogs and cats get. Cats can get a different strain as well. Rabies injections are free from the state although this still drains the resources if affluent people use the service.”

He said the cost to a private veterinarian, unsubsidised, for rabies vaccination is around R200 and that the state spends large amounts of money to complete rabies control programmes to contain the disease.

• Contact 033 347 1931 for more information.

• khanyisani.dlomo@witness.co.za

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