Johannesburg — GAUTENG's head of veterinary services, Malcolm de Bude, is to appeal to the Gauteng government this week for more money to combat the province's first rabies epidemic, which he says is in danger of spreading province-wide.
It will cost veterinary services - which fall under the control of Gauteng's agriculture department - at least R30m to stem the epidemic, Dr de Bude said yesterday.
Prof Lucille Blumberg of the Institute of Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg said rabies is a fatal disease.
Vaccinating pets and avoiding contact with stray animals is the only way to prevent infection.
The urgency of the vaccination campaign has been highlighted by the confirmation on Friday that a Soweto toddler who died last weekend had died of rabies, Dr de Bude said.
If the department does not vaccinate at least 70% of Gauteng's estimated 1,4-million cats and dogs, the disease could become endemic, he said. The provincial treasury has been planning to cut the veterinary services budget, he said.
The 200000 vaccinations purchased by the department so far were "just a start", Dr de Bude said. "Although we managed to broker a good deal from the pharmaceutical companies, the shots cost a minimum of R30 to administer once we have paid vets and paid for additional materials like syringes and swabs."
Gauteng agriculture department spokesman Makoko Lekola said in addition to the department setting up vaccination points around Johannesburg, 90 private vets have been given 50 000 free vaccination sets. They normally charge up to R200 for a rabies jab.
In the past few weeks, cases have been reported in Sophiatown, Kibler Park, Eldorado Park and Dobsonville in Soweto, where a toddler died of suspected rabies after being scratched by a dog.
There have been 10 confirmed human deaths from rabies in SA this year.