Source: The Washington Times (Extract)
Posted: December 22, 2022

Sparked by a string of fatal rabies cases this year, South African health officials have a message for visitors to the resorts along its famous coastline and nature preserves that dot the country’s interior: Stay away from stray dogs.

As locals make their way to rural homes far from the city, or head to year-end holiday celebrations at resorts along the coast or in one of the many game reserves across this nation of 60 million people, officials at the Department of Agriculture in Pretoria this month issued a warning not to touch stray dogs.

While South Africa has a good record when it comes to vaccinating for rabies, deaths still occur, mostly in children. In 2021, at least 12 South Africans died from the disease, and with a 3,000-mile land border it has proved difficult to control the movement of animals from neighboring countries such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

In November, the 12th fatality was recorded for the year when a 7-year-old girl was pronounced dead on arrival at a hospital in the port city of East London. A further five deaths from rural areas were flagged as possible rabies infections, based on the reported symptoms of the victims.

Numbers are difficult to confirm because they are compiled within each of the country’s nine provinces and the reporting system is not uniform. Around Durban on the east coast, officials say they logged 21 cases in November 2022, but an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among cattle took staff away from the project.

South Africa’s national director of animal health, Dr. Mpho Maja, told The Washington Times in an interview that South Africa has some of the best rabies treatment standards in the world.