Last updated on Jun 23rd, 2021 at 02:43 pm

One person dies from a rabies infection every 15 minutes, despite the fact that it is a vaccine-preventable disease… 

A neglected tropical disease, rabies predominantly affects poor populations who live in rural locations.

In comparison with other developed nations, rabies is endemic in South Africa with between five and 30 human rabies cases that are confirmed annually. More than 70% of these cases affect children.

“One person dies of a rabies infection every 15 minutes,” says Dr Nasiha Soofie, Medical Head for Sanofi Pasteur Vaccines in South Africa.

Unvaccinated, rabies-infected dogs cause up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans.

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“The virus is shed in saliva and may be spread to humans through the bite or scratch from an infected animal. Therefore, we encourage all pet owners to vaccinate their pets in order to help prevent this horrific disease.”

How to protect your children from possible dog bites

What to if you are bitten by a dog

In addition to having your pets vaccinated, it is important to seek immediate medical attention if someone is bitten.

Immediate, effective wound washing and treatment followed by a rabies vaccine is critical to prevent the progression of a rabies infection, the onset of rabies symptoms and death,” says Dr Soofie.

Dr Soofie says that rabies vaccines may be used by almost everyone, including pregnant and lactating women, children, the elderly and people who have a compromised immune system.

“Vaccinating dogs is the most cost-effective strategy for preventing rabies infections in humans,” says Dr Soofie. “That’s why it is vitally important to ensure your pets’ rabies vaccinations are up to date especially if you are in an immediate outbreak area. Together and with good vaccination practices, we can rid South Africa of this fatal disease and protect our communities, our loved ones and our pets.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO), World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) have established a global “United Against Rabies” collaboration to provide a common strategy to achieve “Zero human rabies deaths by 2030”.

Sources: World Health Organisation (WHO): Rabies and Weyer, J & Blumberg, L. Management of rabies. National Institute for Communicable Diseases. S Afr Fam Pract. 2019;61(3):63-66.

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