Rabies warning in city

2018-03-15 14:29
Fruit bat at FreeMe.

Fruit bat at FreeMe. ( FreeMe )

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Pietermaritzburg residents have been warned to stay alert after a stray dog tested positive for rabies in the Chase Valley area on Wednesday.

It is unclear where the dog came from and where it was bitten and residents have been asked to keep their eyes open for any animals displaying strange behaviour in the Pietermaritzburg area.

The confirmed case in Chase Vallley follows a massive spike in rabies cases across the province, affecting the coastal belt of KwaZulu-Natal in particular, which has seen the deaths of two children in the province this year so far.

It has been reported that six people have died from rabies in the country since the start of the year.

It has also been reported that a Vryheid resident has recently died reportedly from rabies, but this is still to be confirmed through lab results.

State Veterinary Services Rabies Project manager Kevin le Roux said the rabies virus was “expanding rapidly” from the King Cetshwayo District (Richards Bay) to iLemebe and Durban.

“Rabies kills everything, 100% and is not something you mess with,” said Le Roux.

“It is a very clever virus because it attracts its victims to it.”

He said a person would see a distressed animal and immediately think “shame” and try to help it without knowing what diseases the animal may be carrying.

He added that people usually identified rabies by an animal frothing at the mouth and behaving aggressively, however, he said in his 28 years working with the rabies virus, there “is no real bet on what rabies looks like”.

“All those who have died from the virus did not have information on it or how to treat it. Ignorance kills,” he said.

“KZN has the best rabies treatment programme in Africa. If people are treated immediately, no one has to die.” Le Roux said staff would continue to campaign around the clock and had just had new equipment, funds and vehicles approved for their campaigning.

He said from next month, staff would be visiting schools, putting up billboards and handing out flyers to “flood the province” with the rabies awareness and education campaigns.

He added the team had experienced some challenges during their campaigning, with three of their vehicles hijacked this year.

Two of the hijackings occurred in Durban while the other occurred in Richards Bay.

FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation KZN in Howick confirmed on Wednesday morning that there had been a positive case of a fruit bat with the Lagos virus, which belongs to the same family as the rabies virus.

FreeMe director Wade Whitehead said on Wednesday the virus is very unusual and very little is known about it.

“The Lagos virus ... gives rise to rabies; although this [the Lagos virus] has yet not occurred in humans, it can affect animals and has been recorded in isolated cases, in mongeese, dogs and cats,” said Whitehead.

“This virus has never been recorded in Pietermaritzburg so this is a first,” he said.

“On admittance, this bat showed sign of excessive salivation, shortness of breath (gasping), and paralysis,” said Whitehead. Le Roux said although no human had died from the Lagos virus, ”We must assume if other animals can be infected, there is a real possibility of humans being infected”. He added that precautions must be taken as in the case of rabies.

Whitehead said the wildlife rehabilitation centre played an important role as a link between wildlife and humans and that the centre can bring these cases to light and to the attention of the correct authorities.

“If people do not have the experience and knowledge in handling wild animals, it is important they contact their nearest legal wildlife rehabilitation centre, local vet or SPCA,” he said, adding untrained people often cause stress and the death of animal, and risk diseases.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  rabies

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