Locals and tourists urged to curb the spread of rabies during the festive season

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Locals and holiday travellers are urged to remain alert to curb the spread of rabies during the festive season.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) said the coastal areas of KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape are particularly high-risk areas for rabies. Limpopo and Mpumalanga have also had widespread of rabies cases. There are also rabies warnings at the border between South Africa in the Free State and Lesotho. 

The department advised the public not to approach or pick up stray dogs and cats from these areas for whatever purpose.“By picking up stray animals and homing them, you could aid the spread of rabies to other areas and provinces and put your life and that of your family at risk,” said the department. 

DALRRD encouraged people to rather report stray animals to the nearest welfare organisation, SPCA or the police station.  “Remember that rabies may occur anywhere in South Africa therefore avoid handling animals that you do not know.”

Rabies is a very serious zoonotic disease, meaning that it can be passed from infected animals to humans. Any mammal can become infected with rabies, but the biggest threat to human health is infected dogs and cats.The rabies virus is transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal when it bites, scratches or licks a person.

Animals that are infected with rabies may show changes in behaviour, but these vary widely from unprovoked attacks to becoming overly friendly or just appearing sleepy. Infected animals may drool a lot, may not be able to swallow, continuously barking, whining or howling and sometimes become aggressive or may also appear weak and unresponsive. 

DALRRD said the disease is fatal because it affects the brain and, once clinical signs become visible, there is no curative treatment. “Therefore, if you suspect that you have been exposed to an animal that may have rabies, it is important to wash the wound well with soap under running water and to immediately seek preventative treatment at your nearest healthcare facility. Doing this can save your life.”

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