News

Rabies education drive launched in Gauteng ahead of World Rabies Day

Children and their parents urged to be vigilant of this fatal disease

Monday, October 5 2015

In the run up to World Rabies Day on Monday, 28 September, Netcare staff and members of the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) taught children how to avoid animal bites during an informative educational booklet launch at The Glen Shopping Centre, in Alberton, on Saturday, 26 September.

“While Gauteng has not historically been a rabies hotspot, there is no place for complacency. The best way to ensure that rabies does not develop into a problem here is to educate people, especially young people, about the disease and how it can be prevented,” says Daniel Stewart of GARC.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), there have been 171 laboratory-confirmed cases of rabies in humans in South Africa over the last 15 years. Although only one of these was in Gauteng, there have been a number of confirmed animal cases of rabies in the province. Although rabies was a focal topic for the event, bite prevention and primary animal healthcare were other key topics addressed, educating children in Gauteng about responsible pet ownership. There is, of course, also the risk of coming into contact with animals carrying the rabies virus when travelling to other provinces, for example during holidays.

Children, especially those under the age of 15 years, are particularly prone to being bitten by dogs, which are the main carriers of the rabies virus. For this reason, educating children on how to avoid being bitten is a vital step in preventing the spread of the rabies virus. To this end, GARC and the programme managers of Netcare’s trauma injury prevention (TIP) programme teamed up to develop an informative booklet, which is supported by the World Health Organization.

 

 

“The booklet, which is an important tool in the fight against rabies, was specifically developed to teach children how to interact with dogs and how to read their body language in order to avoid being bitten,” notes Netcare Milpark Hospital trauma programme manager, Rene Grobler.

GARC and Netcare staff members handed out copies of the booklet, free of charge, to children during the event at The Glen Shopping Centre.

Amanda Klette, trauma programme manager at Netcare Union Hospital, said the booklet is ideal for children but was developed with a wider audience in mind. “This booklet was designed to be interactive, with educational games and pictures to facilitate easy learning. We believe the graphics will also help illiterate individuals to understand the core concepts contained in the booklet.”

The WHO is supporting the booklet, which is being distributed to at-risk communities throughout Africa, and, together with the Glen Shopping Centre, has provided support for the printing of booklets for the launch campaigns in KZN and Gauteng.

A digital copy of the booklet can be requested by emailing Netcare’s TIP programme on injury.prevention@netcare.co.za or GARC at paracon@rabiesalliance.org.

This partnership between GARC and Netcare for the development of the educational booklet epitomises a ‘One Health’ approach towards rabies control and elimination.

GARC provided the expertise with regards to rabies and dog bite prevention, while Netcare – with their experience in the successful development of several other trauma booklets – has the means to target the correct audiences most effectively.

“The booklet also reinforces the importance of seeking appropriate medical assistance as soon as possible after an animal bite in order to receive wound treatment and rabies post-exposure prophylaxis when required,” adds Grobler.

According to the WHO, tens of thousands of people die as a result of rabies infections each year, mostly in the rural communities of Africa and Asia. Domestic dogs are the main transmitters of rabies to humans, but, through effective rabies vaccination of dogs, the majority of human rabies cases could easily be prevented.

The virus is spread through the saliva of infected animals, either when they bite, or when their saliva comes into contact with an open wound or the eyes, nose or mouth of an individual.

“Despite rabies being a 100% fatal disease once symptoms occur, it is easily preventable through the vaccination of your pets, as well as timely medical intervention in the case of exposure to a potentially infected animal. Through education, we aim to limit unnecessary dog bite incidents – especially those involving children, the most affected group – and therefore eliminate rabies in humans through prevention,” concludes Klette.

Editors’ notes:
About the Global Alliance for Rabies Control
The Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC) is a leading non-profit organisation that works with governments, veterinary, public health and educational experts and communities to facilitate policy change and develop models to eliminate rabies in areas hardest hit by the disease. GARC’s mission is to eliminate human deaths from rabies and relieve the burden of rabies in animal populations, especially dogs. For more information about rabies and GARC’s work, visit http://rabiesalliance.org.

Ends

Issued by: MNA on behalf of Netcare
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney or Meggan Saville
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email: martina@mnapr.co.za, graeme@mnapr.co.za, or meggan@mnapr.co.za

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