With today being designated World Rabies Day there is good reason to focus on the current state of this and other animal diseases in South Africa at present.

For the country is by no means disease-free.

Avian Influenza

Apart from the every-present danger of rabies, the current epidemic of avian influenza, aka “bird flu”, is devastating flocks of poultry, both layers and broilers.

Once birds become infected by this readily-transmissable virus the only effective remedy is to cull the birds. Thousands have been destroyed countrywide in an attempt to minimise the spread.

Preventive measures that can be taken before the birds are infected include vaccination, and the government has recently assented to the importation and use of vaccines on certain farms.

Nevertheless, the hole that has been knocked in stocks of both layers and broilers mean that both egg and chicken prices are expected to rise. Shortages of both may be experienced by consumers for some time to come.

And, in a precautionary move, Namibia has prohibited the importation of poultry and poultry products from South Africa to try to prevent the disease crossing its border.

Foot & Mouth Disease

In cattle-rich Limpopo, especially, the focus is on the ongoing fight to prevent foot and mouth disease, outbreaks of which are concerningly frequent.

African Horse Sickness

Meanwhile, as summer approaches, horse owners are preparing to vaccinate their charges against the annual scourge of African horse sickness. In recent years there has been a dire shortage of the two-dose AHS vaccine because of problems at the sole manufacturer, namely Onderstepoort Biological Products in Pretoria North.

Earlier in the year OBP issued reassuring statements to the effect that it would have sufficient stock of at least one dose of the vaccine available by the start of the critical season in October.

With October now upon us horse owners are hoping that OBP has lived up to its promise, calls to sanction the importation of vaccines from elsewhere having been rejected so far by government.

Main image: Rabid dog showing classic symptom of frothing saliva. Picture courtesy of US Center for Disease Control via Wikimedia Commons

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