War on rabies gaining ground

2010-09-28 00:00

THE fight against rabies in KwaZulu-Natal is yielding results with this infectious disease spread by animals reduced from 463 in 2009 to 180 this year and recorded human deaths down to three in 2010.

Speaking to KZN Rabies project manager Kevin Le Roux told The Witness yesterday that with the help of the Bill Gates Foundation and the Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development Department, KZN is making good progress in the fight against rabies and that the aim is to completely eliminate the infectious disease.

Today is World Rabies Day, and Le Roux said the challenge is to make people aware that in unvaccinated humans, rabies is almost always fatal after neurological symptoms have developed.

He said that people need to be aware of rabies, vaccinate their dogs and seek urgent medical help when bitten or scratched by a suspected rabid animal.

While cases of the infectious disease are not alarming in Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands area, Le Roux said the disease is a cause for concern along the south coast and in areas around Ladysmith.

He said a massive vaccination programme has resumed in the Edendale and Sweetwaters areas. The Witness was told yesterday that 293 331 vaccinations were conducted between January and August this year in the city and surrounding areas.

The Agriculture, Environmental Affairs and Rural Development Department said in a statement yesterday that rabies has the highest death rate of any infectious disease, adding that every human who contracts the disease will die a painful death if not treated in time.

According to the department, there are over 50 000 deaths of humans from rabies worldwide.

The department will today embark on a joint World Rabies Day cross-border vaccination campaign with the Swaziland veterinary authorities at the Golela-Swaziland border post.

The campaign is part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation rabies eradication programme in the province.

The foundation has provided funding to the tune of R20 million for the rabies programme in the province.

The initiative also covers other primary animal healthcare issues and is an ongoing campaign between KZN and neighbouring countries.

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