Learn more about the rabies disease

ER24 has issued a press statement to educate people about the rabies disease as Wednesday, 28 September is World Rabies Day.

Rabies, which affects animals and humans, is a deadly viral disease. The disease, which is vaccine preventable, is transmitted to humans mainly through the saliva of an infected animal (wild or domestic). This may occur through bites, scratches or when the animal licks broken skin on a person. Dogs are said to be the most common source of rabies.

Rabies can be prevented in humans if the correct preventative treatment is administered following exposure to a rabid animal. “However, people who have been infected with the disease and develop symptoms rarely survive as there is no effective treatment for rabies. Sadly, many of these fatalities are young children. Symptoms could appear a few weeks to years after being exposed to the disease. People with rabies could experience a number of signs including headache, fever, muscle weakness, difficulty swallowing, anxiety, fear of water, paralysis and seizures,” said ER24 spokesman, Chitra Bodasing Harduth.

“Should a person be bitten or scratched by an animal they believe to be rabid, they should immediately wash the wound, for at least 15 minutes, with water and soap.

“It is important for anyone bitten or scratched, even in the case of minor injuries, to seek urgent medical attention. This includes, as a precaution, adults who received the rabies vaccination when they were young.

“Treatment of bites depends on the severity of the injury as well as whether the dog was a stray or a pet that was or was not immunised. The patient will be treated based on the assumption that the dog was not immunised if the dog’s status is unknown or if proof of immunisation cannot be provided,” explained Chitra.

Preventative treatment follows possible exposure to rabies which can include minor scratches or abrasions on the surface of the skin.

“If the dog is immunised, the patient is given a tetanus vaccination and the wound is cleaned and dressed with dry dressings such as simple bandages or gauze. If the dog’s status is unknown or if it was not immunised, a tetanus and anti-rabies vaccine is administered.

Other preventative treatment is for deeper scratches, wounds or puncture wounds.

“The wound should be washed with tap water and dressed with dry dressing. The patient will be given a tetanus vaccine and in cases where the dog was not immunised or where it is unknown, rabies immunoglobulin will be administered along with the anti-rabies vaccine,” she said.

To reduce the chances of your dog being infected with rabies, ensure that they are vaccinated against the disease. This is a legal obligation on pet owners.

“If you see your dog behaving strangely or aggressively even though it is not being provoked, seek the help of professionals. Avoid stray animals,” she added.

Sanelisiwe Tsinde

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