Gauteng Health on World Rabies Day

World Rabies Day is an international campaign which is observed on September 28.

World Rabies Day is celebrated annually throughout the world to raise awareness about rabies prevention and to highlight progress in defeating this horrifying disease. 28 September also marks the anniversary of Louis Pasteur's death, the French chemist and microbiologist, who developed the first rabies vaccine.

Today, safe and effective animal and human vaccines are among the important tools that exist to eliminate human deaths from rabies while awareness is the key driver for success of communities to engage in effective rabies prevention.

The theme for 2016 is Rabies: Educate. Vaccinate. Eliminate. which emphasises the two crucial actions that communities can do to prevent rabies. It also reflects the global target to eliminate all human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030.

Rabies, although preventable, results in thousands of human deaths each year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that annually, an average of 60 000 human deaths occur worldwide. Rabies has the highest death rate of any human infectious disease and essentially 100% of humans who contract rabies disease will die usually very painful deaths.

Every rabies death is preventable; therefore it is critical to raise awareness of what can be done to prevent deaths.

Animal rabies is present throughout South Africa and neighbouring countries. About 10 human cases are laboratory confirmed in South Africa annually, however in 2006 one of our provinces experienced an outbreak, which resulted in more than 30 cases being confirmed nationally.

Tragically, most of those who succumbed to the disease were bitten by rabid dogs. They did not attend health care facilities for treatment and therefore did not receive the correct or any post-exposure prophylaxis. Rabies is 100% preventable if one seeks health care immediately after being bitten, scratched or licked by an animal suspected to be infected with rabies.

There are safe and effective vaccines available for people who have been bitten or exposed to an animal that might have the disease.

It is very important to note that when bitten, scratched or licked by an animal suspected to be infected with rabies, one should not wait for symptoms to develop. There is no effective treatment for human rabies once symptoms develop (the outcome is fatal), therefore seek medical attention immediately. Your health care provider will assess your degree of exposure and treat you accordingly.

The Department of Health in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture (DAFF), National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Private Sector is conducting a number of activities to increase awareness of Rabies, the risk factors involved, how to prevent the disease and what should one do if they were exposed to a rabid animal.

Source: South African Government