Update on rabies in South Africa

03 May 2022

Article: 56/1703

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has reported continuing incidences of rabies in South Africa people, with four cases being reported across three provinces between 1 January and 24 March 2022. An ongoing outbreak of rabies in dogs continues to place people at risk in the affected provinces. 

Rabies is a fatal but preventable disease of the central nervous system caused by the rabies virus. People are infected when saliva from an infected mammal comes into direct contact with broken skin or mucous membranes (eyes, nose or mouth), usually from a bite, scratch or lick. Rabies is invariably fatal once symptoms develop, as only a small number of people with the disease are known to have survived. 

Advice for travellers

  • All travellers to rabies endemic areas should be aware of the risk of rabies and advised to avoid contact with wild and domestic animals, particularly dogs and cats. Travellers should follow advice on how to prevent and manage animal bites.
  • Children are more vulnerable to rabies than adults, as they are less likely to understand the risk of interacting with animals, less able to defend themselves from an animal attack and may not report a potential exposure.
  • All travellers to endemic areas should be aware of immediate wound care and advised to seek medical attention immediately following potential exposure. Effective rabies vaccines, which can be used pre- and post-exposure, are available and prevent clinical rabies from developing. 

Further information for health professionals is available from the TRAVAX rabies and rabies post-exposure guidance webpages, while the general public can access information on the fitfortravel rabies webpage

Sources: TRAVAX, 22 April 2022 and fitfortravel, 22 April 2022