We have heard that rabies is fatal. Let us expand on the facts of rabies and why vaccinations are so essential.
The disease is what we call a zoonotic disease, which means that it is passed from infected animals to humans – transmitted through saliva, most commonly if one is bitten. It has a dramatic effect on the human brain and once clinical signs become visible, there is no curative treatment, and therefore fatal. According to statistics, this virus kills at least one person in the world every 9 minutes.
It is imperative that every owner has their dogs and cats vaccinated to protect our communities against this disease. In South Africa not having your cats and dogs vaccinated for rabies is against the law.
The myth and belief that has been around, is that rabies is in the animal from birth or “for life” – this is not true. Science has shown that it can be prevented through the vaccination of animals by any responsible and loving pet owner and that if just 70% of dogs in high-risk areas are vaccinated, this can eliminate canine rabies in that area.
A misconception is that rabies cannot be prevented in humans once bitten, that there is no medical treatment. This is not entirely true. There is a treatment for rabies in humans if given correctly and immediately (or as soon as possible) after being transmitted. If you are bitten or scratched by a suspected rabid animal, wash the wound well with soap and running water for 15 minutes. Seek immediate treatment at your nearest medical facility, where a series of vaccinations will be given and if required, rabies antibodies will be administered. If preventative treatment is not carried out, once any symptoms start, rabies is 100% fatal in all species. It cannot be treated but can be prevented, through early and proper bite wound care.
It is also rumoured that rabies is only ever transmitted by dog bites. Also untrue. Though in our communities it is most commonly passed on by infected dogs, it can be transferred to a human from the bite, scratch or lick of an infected mammal, the second most common being cats.
So let’s protect both your pet and you and eliminate any unease about rabies as well as vaccinations that are beneficial and aid in the immune system fighting off potential viral and bacterial diseases.