Important animal species associated with rabies in Africa are dogs, cats, cattle, mongoose, bat-eared foxes, and jackals. Animal rabies is endemic in South Africa and both wild and domestic animals are important reservoirs. All mammals are susceptible to rabies and can transmit rabies virus, but dogs are the most important source of human rabies infection in Africa, as well as the yellow mongoose. Globally, dogs are the major reservoirs. Dog rabies in South Africa is most prevalent in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga Provinces.
There have been a number of successful control initiatives in the province of Kwazulu Natal. Most of the cases occur in rural areas.
There is a low risk when travelling in more rural areas and this can be further reduced by avoiding touching any animals. Post-exposure prophylaxis (both vaccine and rabies immunoglobulin) is readily available.
An update on rabies in South Africa
Communicated by: National Institute for Communicable Diseases
In April 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) published their revised position on rabies vaccines and rabies immunoglobulins (Available from: http://www.who.int/entity/rabies/resources/who_wer9316/en/index.html).
This document summarises the current recommended regimens for post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for rabies in South Africa as of January 2020.
You are advised to visit your general practice surgery or a travel medicine clinic at least 6 weeks before you travel. However, it is never too late to seek advice.
If you have a medical condition, you are advised to discuss the suitability of the trip before you book.