Kids face dog danger
A drive to rid the community of rabies asks kids to collect possibly rabid animals.
Image: via Shutterstock

A local sportsman has been declared brain dead after he contracted rabies several weeks ago, according to News24. There have been 125 recorded cases of rabies in KwaZulu Natal since the beginning of the year, and two deaths. Now the Department of Education has agreed to let children go home and collect pets on vaccination days in their communities. The trouble is, that could expose these children to rabid animals.

Hidden danger

The sportsman, Graeme Anderson, had picked up a dog in Underberg Village and taken it home to care for it. When he started feeling ill, he could recall nothing unusual about the animal, and had not been bitten. Doctors suggest that he must have come into contact with the dog’s saliva.

KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture and Environmental Affairs MEC Meshack Radebe launched a rabies vaccination campaign in Durban on Thursday.

The department would roll out a vaccination programme aimed at vaccinating 70% of animals in KwaZulu-Natal a year.

Rabies may take anything from ten days to a year before symptoms present themselves, so it’s not always possible to tell whether an animal has the dreaded disease.

Radebe’s suggestion that  “ there should be a way of marking all vaccinated dogs and cats, so if someone decides to play with a pet, they will at least know if it has been vaccinated," doesn’t quite cover the risks that schoolkids may come into contact with the animals.

Kids are bitten more often than adults

Statistically, children contract rabies more frequently than adults, as they are less cautious when it comes to handling rabid animals, and are more likely to be bitten.

While it’s apparent that there needs to be a drive to vaccinate all animals against rabies, sending kids home from school to collect pets could increase the possibility of potentially fatal exposure to rabies. As many pets are allowed to roam, it’s not possible to be certain that the animals haven’t come into contact with the disease. Other suggestions, such as the destruction of all stray dogs and cats, have been deemed impossible, owing to the manner in which even pet animals are allowed to roam.

Read more about rabies and how to protect your kids against it.

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