AFTER representatives from 11 countries held a meeting at the World Health Organisation headquarters to devise plans to control the spread of rabies around the world on February 14, Umvoti Animal Hospital urged residents to vaccinate their dogs and cats to avoid the spread of the virus.Veterinary surgeon from Umvoti Animal Hospital Isla Mackellar said the recent statistics revealed that there were five cases reported in uMshwathi area this year, with iLembe and Durban continuing to have a problem.“There has been no cases reported in uMvoti. Vaccination of dogs and cats is the first step in preventing the disease. “When someone gets bitten [by an infected animal], they must act quickly, within 24 hours. They must find out if that dog has been vaccinated. Once the virus moves to the brain, there’s no treatment,” she said.Spokesperson for the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform Phathisa Mfuyo said it is law that all dogs are vaccinated against rabies.“Levels of the disease are currently high, and all pets and people can be considered at risk. Do not touch any unknown animals, especially if they are sick, call a professional group like SPCA or State Vet Service. Rabies is a fatal viral encephalitis and is the most fatal disease known to man.“It is transmitted by the bite of an infected animal (95% from dogs), with virus laden saliva entering the wound and attaching to nerve cells. However, if the wound is immediately washed with soap and placed under running water for five to 10 minutes, disinfectant applied and correct treatment is sought immediately, it is preventable.”Mfuyo added that dogs are the main source of the disease in KZN and are required to be vaccinated by law. “The disease occurs mainly in dogs, but can affect all warm-blooded animals and all have the potential to transmit the disease. “Wash the wound under running water for more than five minutes. Clean the wound with any disinfectant and go immediately to the nearest clinic. A dog bite in KZN is seen as an emergency and an ambulance can be called if transport is problem,” Mfuyo said.According to the department, all the victims who have died in KZN had failed to seek medical attention.“We are calling on all communities to seek immediate medical advice once bitten by animals, especially dogs. Dogs can be vaccinated earlier if there is little chance of receiving the first one at three months due to non-availability of services.” THE DEPARTMENT ADVISED RESIDENTS NOT TO APPROACH ANY DOG THAT SHOWS THESE SYMPTOMS> Changes in behaviour as the brain of dog is affected by the virus> Dog will wander off> Agitation as the dog does not know what is happening to it> Strange vocalisations – howling, barking> Salivation, can’t swallow, appears to have something stuck in throat> Lack of coordination> Dehydration (rabid dogs are not generally scared of water) as they cannot drink (as their throat is paralysed) but they will try.> Chewing strange objects> Biting at the air as if there are flies around it> Aggression — often biting will only occur when stimulated by sound, touch, movement, etc> Paralysis, often of the back legs> Depression/looking sickly > Staring eyesDeath occurs normally within three days of the first signs of infection.