• home Home
  • keyboard_arrow_right LIFESTYLE
  • keyboard_arrow_right Posts
  • keyboard_arrow_rightExplainer: what’s behind the rabies outbreak in South Africa

Explainer: what’s behind the rabies outbreak in South Africa

By: Jacqueline Weyer, National Institute for Communicable Diseases

File 20180315 104659 lubzum.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1




In the last four months five cases of rabies in humans have been reported in South Africa, and an additional two cases are probable. The country’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases warns that steps need to be taken to curb the trend. The Conversation Africa’s health and medicine editor Candice Bailey spoke to the institute’s Jacqueline Weyer about these concerns.


How prevalent is rabies in dogs in South Africa?

The recent confirmed human rabies cases were spread geographically across South Africa and reported from locations in the north and east of the country. This included four provinces: Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Two probable cases were reported in the Free State and Eastern Cape provinces, but appropriate samples were not available for laboratory confirmation.

Historically, locations in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape have been affected the most by dog transmitted rabies. But in the past decade cases have been increasingly reported from areas where it has been controlled before. This includes outbreaks of dog transmitted rabies in areas of the Limpopo Province, Mpumalanga, North West and Free State Provinces.

The epidemiology of the disease is dynamic and changes based on factors such as vaccination coverage, the movement of animals and other issues that may affect the ecology of dogs in a given area. For example in 2010, a rabies outbreak was reported in dogs in the south west of Johannesburg. The outbreak could be traced back to a rabid dog from KwaZulu-Natal. With low vaccine coverage in Johannesburg, the outbreak lasted for the better part of year before it was brought under control.


How big of a threat is it to humans?

Rabies is the most fatal infectious disease known to mankind. It is spread through the infected saliva of a rabid animal. This means that any encounter that allows the contaminated saliva to enter the body – through a scratch, wound or through contact with mucous membranes – could lead to infection. Most human rabies cases in the world happen when a person has been exposed to a rabid domestic dog. There are very few cases linked to rabid cats and other mammals like wildlife and domestic livestock.

There is no cure for rabies once the symptoms of the disease become evident and the virus has spread to the brain. This is true for both animals and humans. Although there is no cure for the disease, rabies is preventable and a single case of the disease remains a tragedy.

If someone has been bitten by a rabid animal, the wound, no matter how big or small, must be washed thoroughly with soap and water. In addition the person must see a doctor as a matter of urgency. At the health care facility, the risk for rabies virus transmission will be assessed based on the particulars of the case and rabies vaccination and rabies antibody therapy provided as preventative treatment post exposure.


What needs to be done to control and eliminate rabies?

Dog rabies has been eliminated in many countries around the world. In the US, this was achieved nearly 60 years ago. And in the developing world, Mexico has also managed to control dog transmitted rabies.

Their keys to success were progressive and systematic programmes for rabies vaccination in dogs. And these were underpinned by commitment from their governments as well as the public health and veterinary health authorities.

The fact that rabies is a zoonotic disease, affecting both human and animals, presents a massive obstacle. The control of rabies relies almost solely on the vaccination of domestic dogs. In South Africa one of the challenges is that the country doesn’t have enough resources to make sure this happens uniformly.

Dogs need to be vaccinated when they are puppies (at four months) and then again when they are one year old. After that, vaccinations need to happen every three years. In South Africa, vaccination of dogs and cats are mandatory by law. It’s the pet owners responsibility to ensure that their animals are vaccinated.

South Africa has committed to eliminate rabies by 2030. In 2014, the National Rabies Advisory Group of South Africa estimated that the country had spent about R70 million (USD$ 6 million) in vaccine and immunoglobulin purchases.

The ConversationBridging the gap in South Africa needs an integrated multisectoral, or “one health” approach for rabies control and prevention. Lessons from countries where dog rabies has been brought under control are ample, and policies and programmes should be adopted with these lessons and local challenges in mind.

Jacqueline Weyer, Senior Medical Scientist, National Institute for Communicable Diseases

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Written by: Natasha


UpComing Shows

DownLoad Our Mobile App

Privacy Policy


POPIA ActTo promote the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies; to introduce certain conditions so as to establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information; to provide for the establishment of an Information Regulator to exercise certain powers and to perform certain duties and functions in terms of this Act and the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000; to provide for the issuing of codes of conduct; to provide for the rights of persons regarding unsolicited electronic communications and automated decision making; to regulate the flow of personal information across the borders of the Republic; and to provide for matters connected therewith.


  • section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, provides that everyone has the right to privacy;
  • the right to privacy includes a right to protection against the unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information;
  • the State must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights;


  • consonant with the constitutional values of democracy and openness, the need for economic and social progress, within the framework of the information society, requires the removal of unnecessary impediments to the free flow of information, including personal information;


  • regulate, in harmony with international standards, the processing of personal information by public and private bodies in a manner that gives effect to the right to privacy subject to justifiable limitations that are aimed at protecting other rights and important interests,
  1. Definitions and Interpretation

1.1.“Personal Information” means information relating to an identifiable, living, natural person and where it is applicable, identifiable, existing juristic person, including all information as defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013. 

1.2  Parliament assented to POPIA on 19 November 2013. The commencement date of section 1Part A of Chapter 5section 112 and section 113 was 11 April 2014. The commencement date of the other sections was 1 July 2020 (with the exception of section 110 and 114(4). The President of South Africa has proclaimed the POPI commencement date to be 1 July 2020.

1.3. “Processing” means the creation, generation, communication, storage, destruction of personal information as more fully defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013.  

1.4. “You” or the “user” means any person who accesses and browses this website for any purpose. 

1.4. “Website” means the website of the KAYA 959 at URL or such other URL as KAYA 959 may choose from time to time.   

  1. Status and Amendments

2.1. KAYA 959 respects your privacy. This privacy policy statement sets out KAYA 959’s information gathering and dissemination practices in respect of the Website. 

2.2. This Privacy Policy governs the processing of personal information provided to KAYA 959 through your use of the Website. 

2.3. Please note that, due to legal and other developments, KAYA 959 may amend these terms and conditions from time to time.  

  1. Processing of Personal Information

3.1. By providing your personal information to KAYA 959 you acknowledge that it has been collected directly from you and consent to its processing by KAYA 959. 

3.2. Where you submit Personal Information (such as name, address, telephone number and email address) via the website (e.g. through completing any online form) the following principles are observed in the processing of that information: 

3.2.1. KAYA 959 will only collect personal information for a purpose consistent with the purpose for which it is required. The specific purpose for which information is 
collected will be apparent from the context in which it is requested. 

3.2.2. KAYA 959 will only process personal information in a manner that is adequate, relevant and not excessive in the context of the purpose for which it is processed. 

3.2.3. Personal information will only be processed for a purpose compatible with that for which it was collected, unless you have agreed to an alternative purpose in writing or KAYA 959 is permitted in terms of national legislation of general application dealing primarily with the protection of personal information. 

3.2.4. KAYA 959 will keep records of all personal Information collected and the specific purpose for which it was collected for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

3.2.5. KAYA 959 will not disclose any personal information relating to you to any third party unless your prior written agreement is obtained or KAYA 959 is required to do so by law. 

3.2.6. If personal information is released with your consent KAYA 959 will retain a record of the information released, the third party to which it was released, the reason for the release and the date of release, for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

3.2.7. KAYA 959 will destroy or delete any personal information that is no longer needed by KAYA 959 for the purpose it was initially collected, or subsequently processed. 

3.3. Note that, as permitted by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002, KAYA 959 may use personal information collected to compile profiles for statistical purposes. No information contained in the profiles or statistics will be able to be linked to any specific user.    

  1. Collection of anonymous data

4.1. KAYA 959 may use standard technology to collect information about the use of this website. This technology is not able to identify individual users but simply allows KAYA 959 to collect statistics. 

4.2. KAYA 959 may utilise temporary or session cookies to keep track of users’ browsing habits. A cookie is a small file that is placed on your hard drive in order to keep a record of your interaction with this website and facilitate user convenience. 

4.2.1. Cookies by themselves will not be used to identify users personally but may be used to compile identified statistics relating to use of services offered or to provide KAYA 959 with feedback on the performance of this website. 

4.2.2. The following classes of information may be collected in respect of users who have enabled cookies: The browser software used; IP address; Date and time of activities while visiting the website; URLs of internal pages visited; and referrers. 

4.3. If you do not wish cookies to be employed to customize your interaction with this website it is possible to alter the manner in which your browser handles cookies. Please note that, if this is done, certain services on this website may not be available. 

  1. Security

5.1. KAYA 959 takes reasonable measures to ensure the security and integrity of information submitted to or collected by this website, but cannot under any circumstances be held liable for any loss or other damage sustained by you as a result of unlawful access to or dissemination of any personal information by a third party. 

  1. Links to other websites

6.1. KAYA 959 has no control over and accepts no responsibility for the privacy practices of any third party websites to which hyperlinks may have been provided and KAYA 959 strongly recommends that you review the privacy policy of any website you visit before using it further. 

  1. Queries

7.1. If you have any queries about this privacy policy please contact us by emailing [email protected]