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Death toll rises in rabies outbreak

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Four human deaths were reported at the beginning of the year - it has now risen to six.

Picture: AfricanNewsAgency(ANA) Archives

Durban – Health authorities have expressed alarm at four human rabies deaths in KwaZulu-Natal since the start of the year.

Six deaths in all have been reported. The other two cases were from the Eastern Cape.

Dr Jacqueline Weyer, a medical scientist with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), said a surge of dog rabies cases was being reported from the KZN coastal belt, including Durban.

“The human rabies cases were reported from areas where dog rabies was reported. We have confirmed it through laboratory testing,” Weyer said.

Rabies is caused by a virus which is spread through the saliva of an infected animal. The infected saliva enters the human body by either a bite, scratch or a lick on broken skin, or on the eyes. An incubation period of 4-8 weeks follows. When the infection has spread to the brain, the signs and symptoms become apparent. The disease is acute and progressive, and the victim will typically be ill for about two weeks before dying.

Weyer said animals and humans had similar symptoms.

NICD spokesperson Sine­nhlanhla Jimoh said rabies vaccination of domestic dogs and cats was mandatory in South Africa, and the onus was on pet owners to ensure their pets were vaccinated on schedule.

People bitten by rabid animals should wash the wound and seek medical treatment.

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