Rabies in South Africa

14 December 2021

Article: 55/5005

In October and November 2021, public health authorities in South Africa reported six cases of rabies in humans, four in the province of Eastern Cape, one in Kwa-Zulu Natal province and one in Limpopo province, with further suspected cases under investigation.

In total, there have been 17 cases of rabies in South Africa from 1 January to 23 November 2021, all in the provinces named above, with all cases being related to an outbreak of rabies in dogs.

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 and only a small number of people with the disease are known to have survived.

Advice for travellers

Travellers should be aware that any animal contact in a rabies endemic area poses a potential risk of infection. All travellers to endemic areas should be aware of immediate wound care and are advised to seek medical attention immediately if bitten or scratched by an animal and be aware that an effective rabies vaccination is available.

Further information and advice on rabies can be found on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.

Post-exposure rabies guidance is available on the TRAVAX website. 

Source: TRAVAX, 2 December 2021