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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Rabies (Human) in South Africa

02 Dec 2013

A human case of rabies virus infection was reported in a 22-year-old male from Msogwaba in Mpumalanga Province who died in October 2013. The diagnosis was made on clinical presentation, together with the fatal outcome and the serological findings in the cerebrospinal fluid supporting a diagnosis of rabies.

Rabies is endemic in Mpumalanga Province with an average of 100 dog cases reported annually throughout the province. The area surrounding Mbombela currently represents one of the most densely-infected rabies areas in the country. Since 2008 when rabies re-emerged in domestic dogs in Mpumalanga Province, a total of six human rabies cases (excluding the most recent case) has been confirmed. All but one of these cases had a history of exposure to domestic dogs.

To date in 2013, a total of seven human rabies cases has been confirmed (not including the case discussed here), originating from Mpumalanga (n=1), KwaZulu-Natal (n=1), Limpopo (n=3) and Free State (n=2) provinces.

Advice for Travellers

Travellers to South Africa should be aware of the rabies risk and be advised to avoid all contact with animals and dogs in particular. All animal bites should be reported and assessed carefully. Rabies pre-exposure vaccine is available for those considered to be at risk.