An outbreak of rabies has hit the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, with a nine-year-old Gqeberha boy being its first victim so far.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality (NMBMM) issued a warning calling on residents to be vigilant and to take their domestic pets for rabies vaccinations, following the death of a boy last weekend who was bitten by a dog. Health-e News received confirmation from NMBMM that the nine-year-old boy died at the Dora Nginza Hospital on Friday last week.
“We have learnt with sadness of the passing of the boy from Motherwell, who died due to rabies. We have the family in our prayers,” said Acting Mayor Luxolo Namette.
The municipality’s health services directorate deputy director Dr Patrick Nodwele said vaccinating domestic pets can be the most effective way of preventing rabies transmission to humans.
“The boy passed at Dora Nginza Hospital where it was established that he had been bitten by a dog. Our health officials, together with the Department of Agrarian Reform, have been busy these last couple months vaccinating dogs and cats in an effort to curb the virus as we know that rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease and post-bite vaccinations save lives,” Dr Nodwele told Health-e News.
Rabies causes viral encephalitis which kills up to 70 000 people a year around the world. Infected animal saliva transmits viral encephalitis to humans. Rabies is one of the oldest known diseases in history with cases dating back to 4000 years ago. For most of human history, a bite from a rabid animal was uniformly fatal. In the past, people were so scared of rabies that after being bitten by a potentially rabid animal, many would commit suicide.
Rabies cases rose significantly over August and September, he added, which is why they are calling on residents to take their domestic pets for vaccinations. The outbreak is spread throughout the entire Nelson Mandela metro region and Nodwele said that 61 rabies specimens submitted for testing all came back positive.
So far 5254 dogs and 438 cats have been vaccinated across the metro. The municipality from time to time issues a domestic pets vaccination schedule, and is calling on residents to observe the schedule so that they bring their animals for vaccination. A vaccination and community education programme is also being run.
Dr Nodwele said the incubation period of rabies is two to three months, though with factors such as bite location and viral load, it can also vary from one week to a year.
“Initial symptoms include a fever and pain, and unusual or unexplained tingling, pricking or burning sensations at the wound site. As the virus spreads through the body to the central nervous system, progressive and fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord develops,” Dr Nodwele explained.
Source: Health-e News