Rabies case confirmed in PMB Rabies

2016-10-05 06:00
PHOTO: supplied The dog that was put to sleep on Monday at the Chase Valley Vet as he was struggling to swallow, to walk and eat. It was later confirmed that he had rabies.

PHOTO: supplied The dog that was put to sleep on Monday at the Chase Valley Vet as he was struggling to swallow, to walk and eat. It was later confirmed that he had rabies.

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A CASE of rabies has been confirmed in Pietermaritzburg by Allerton State Veterinary last week.

The dog, which was treated last Monday at Chase Valley Veterinary Clinic, belonged to a family in Sweetwaters, who rescued the little puppy from the street a few weeks ago.

“According to the family it was doing really well, gaining weight and was very friendly. Suddenly it stopped eating. On Sunday [25 September] evening they posted a post on Facebook urging the public to help as their puppy was sick and they didn’t have the money to treat it,” said Estee van Aardt, Chase Valley vet.

According to Van Aardt, Derick dos Santos, a recent Mr South Africa finalist and passionate animal rescue activist, offered to pay for the family’s vet fees at Chase Valley Vet, where he is a client.

“The little pup was quite flat, its eyes were closed and it was struggling to open its mouth. There was quite a lot of saliva. There were some muscle tremors in the face. The biggest differential diagnosis for a puppy like this would be canine distemper virus, and a puppy this sick would usually have a very small chance of surviving.

“Because it is contagious to other dogs we decided to put the pup to sleep. We sent the body to Allerton state vet laboratory as any dog that has had no known vaccinations showing strange signs needs to be treated as possible rabies.

“They contacted us on Tuesday [27 September] to say that it was indeed positive, and they have also contacted the owners. All in-contact people have already started their post-exposure rabies treatment,” said Van Aardt.

Rabies comes in two forms, furious or dumb, she said. Although it is common for pet owners to take particular notice of the furious form that causes the animals to become aggressive, owners need to also look out for the dumb form when then animal becomes subdued and lethargic.

“The furious form is usually easy to identify, the animals act excitable, aggressive and salivate profusely. The more dangerous form is the so-called dumb form, where animals get weaker, struggle to swallow and eventually die.

“People do not often associate this with any danger so the animal never gets tested for rabies and exposed people don’t get treated properly. By the time the people get sick a few months later, it’s too late,” said Van Aardt.

South African law states that all dogs and cats must be vaccinated for rabies at three months, one to nine months later and then every three years. Rabies is usually included in the normal annual vaccinations at a veterinarian, but the state offers the vaccine for free.

“The only way to defeat rabies is to understand it, to know what to look out for and to vaccinate dogs and cats. There is no cure. This Samaritan that took this dog to the vet for the family probably saved their lives,” said Van Aardt.

Allerton State Veterinary administers free rabies vaccinations between 2pm to 4pm every Friday.

Rabies is a controlled disease in South Africa. If there is an outbreak the state veterinarian takes over and makes sure the necessary people are treated and tries to control spread by finding all in-contact animals.

All mammals can get rabies. Some species are more resistant to it. Domestic animals bitten by jackal or mongoose is often a way it is transferred.

Rabies is a virus that is stored in the salivary glands and transmitted mostly via bite wounds, but saliva on an open cut can also be infected, It does not survive in the environment.

If you get bitten by a dog, the first thing you need to do is to wash your wound under running water, preferably with a disinfectant. Find out about the animal’s vaccination status, if the animal is fully vaccinated then it should not be a problem. If it is unknown the animal can be placed under quarantine and monitored for signs. Definitive diagnosis can only be made by sending the brain away for testing, so it cannot be diagnosed on a live animal.

Medical professionals have different protocols for treating bite wounds, but they need to know about the status of the animal to choose the correct one. If an animal is confirmed positive for rabies - all animals and people involved need to be contacted.

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