RABIES: Beware… what you should know!

A  dog with rabies loses territorial instincts and may wander long distances and so shows up unexpectedly and is called “Stray”.
However, studies have shown there is no significant stray dog population in KZN. Therefore, almost all rabid dogs were owned but unvaccinated and so contracted the disease.
Dogs are transported by people all over the country, and with a longish incubation normally 2 weeks or longer, can appear anywhere at any time. Rabies has been found in Johannesburg having come from KZN before. This means that although we consider some areas more dangerous than others it could pitch up anywhere.
Therefore, a message of caution especially to children must be spread abroad to avoid contact with any unknown dog or animal that is acting strangely.


Main Symptoms of rabies in dogs:

  • Owner will see a change in behaviour as brain of dog fills with virus.
  • Dog will wander off (Many cases are recorded as strays)
  • Agitation as the dog does not know what is happening to it.
  • Strange vocalizations – howling barking.
  • Salivation, can’t swallow, appears to have something stuck in throat.
  • Dehydration (Rabid dogs are rarely scared of water) as they cannot drink throat is paralysed, but will try.
  • Chewing strange objects.
  • Will bite at the air as if there are flies around it.
  • Aggression – Can be unprovoked but often biting will only occur when stimulated by sound touch, movement etc.
  • Paralysis often of back legs.
  • Depression – sickly looking
  • Staring eyes
  • Death occurs normally within three days of first signs

Rabies in Humans:

Rabies is the most fatal disease known to man, once the virus attaches to a nerve cell (which they like) it is 100% fatal with no treatment available once symptoms start.
It is however 100% preventable with the correct treatment is given when the bite happens (Therefore timing is everything).
The incubation period can be from 10 days to two years.
It is one of the most horrific ways to die. It can appear as demon possession and brings fear to the whole community. All victims will die in a few days following the start of symptoms, fully aware of what is happening.

  • Fear of water
  • Sensitive to wind, noise, touch etc.
  • Hallucinations, Fear, Anxiety
  • Muscle spasms
  • Salivation
  • Aggression
  • Paralysis, incoordination
  • Difficult to breath
  • Coma
  • Death

Message to people who have been bitten:

  1. Wash wound under running water for more than 5 min.
  2. Clean wound with any disinfectant.

A dog bite in KZN is seen as an emergency and an ambulance can be called if transport is problem.
Treatment consists of four injections on day 0;3;7;14 which MUST BE COMPLETED!!!!
If a bad bite, additional injections will be done into the wound.

Rabies Vaccination

Travel Doc offers a Rabies Vaccination. In South Africa this vaccination is recommended for people with potential for occupational exposure eg. veterinary staff, wild life handlers, lab personal working with rabies virus and animal welfare staff. The vaccination is also recommended for long term travelers to high risk areas in South Africa especially for young children living close to the local population and their dogs.

For overseas travel: rabies vaccinations is not advised for routine overseas travel however it should be considered for travelers visiting regions in the world where canine rabies regularly affects animals and where contact with animals is probable and immediate access to appropriate treatment is limited – such as travel in the backpacking or adventure category (adventure travel to Asia, Indian sub-continent, South America or trans-Africa overland trips).

Call Travel Doc 011 440 5325 or 011 440 5326 or 082 457 0176

or Contact Us for more info

Communicated By: Mr Kevin Le Roux (Provincial Government of Kwa-Zulu Natal)

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