The Western Cape government says it is aiming to vaccinate approximately 70,000 pets to contain rabies by the end of the year.
Rabies is fatal and untreatable, but can be prevented by vaccinating one’s animals, especially domestic dogs and cats.
In a statement, the Western Cape department of agriculture’s veterinary services said it would host regular rabies vaccination outreaches in communities across the province. This is for communities that do not have easy access to veterinary services.
The department will also host other initiatives including farmers’ education days and school talks.
“Veterinary officials hold regular farmer education days concentrating on diseases, issues farmers need to look out for and how to prevent them. At the same time, school talks to learners focus on dog behaviour, preventing dog bites, and preventing rabies in their pets.
“Veterinary officials will ensure that rabies awareness is included during their daily interaction with animal owners during their visits to farms, smallholdings and other premises where animals are kept.
“We do so because we believe that the health of animals is vital to safeguarding people’s health and preventing disease outbreaks or transmission,” the department said.
This comes after the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirmed three humans were exposed to a rabid honey badger back in July, while two cases were confirmed involving a jackal in June.
At the time, a rabies vaccination campaign was rolled out in Mogale City, west of Johannesburg, to curb any further infections, especially in dogs and other pets.
This was the third bout of human rabies cases in South Africa this year.
In March, a 2-year-old boy died in KwaZulu-Natal after sustaining a head injury while playing with a rabid dog.
After being hospitalised, no post-exposure prophylaxis was administered. The dog also died, the NICD said.
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Meanwhile in April, a 7-year-old boy was bitten by a dog in Thohoyandou, Limpopo, and was admitted to hospital.
Ongoing rabies infections perpetuate the cycle and are mostly observed in domestic dogs, black-backed jackals, mongoose and bat-eared foxes across the country.
If infections are not reported, rabies can spill over to other wildlife and domestic species.
More than 99% of human rabies cases are associated with rabid domestic dogs.
Rabies: What to do
If you come across an animal showing unusual behaviour such as excessive salivating and signs of paralysis, contact your nearest veterinarian.
Do not handle animals you are unsure of. Keep in mind: animals with rabies can also appear tame. If you have been bitten or scratched, wash wounds thoroughly with soap and water.
Make sure to visit your nearest healthcare facility immediately to get treatment. Although sometimes fatal, the NICD emphasised that rabies deaths were preventable.
READ MORE: Remember to vaccinate your pets against rabies
Signs of an infection will manifest within three-to-five days, and signs in animals include aggression, excessive drooling, fearfulness, staggering, paralysis and seizures. The animal may also have difficulty swallowing.
While aggressive behaviour is common, rabid animals may also be uncharacteristically affectionate. The virus spreads from animals to humans via the saliva of the infected animal.
Additional reporting by Nica Richards