Copyright (C) 2011 Bat Interest Group of KwaZulu Natal All Rights Reserved
Copyright Paul Buchel
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal.
There are records dating back to the eighteenth centuary of the suspected occurence of rabies in dogs and/or humans in South Africa. At present 600 to 700 cases of rabies are diagnosed in domestic and wild animals each year in South Africa, with dogs, cattle and the yellow mongoose collectively constituting 85% of all animals in which the disease is confirmed.
No bat has ever tested positive for canine rabies in South Africa.
This is not the case in North and Central America where it is estimated that approximately a half of one percent ( 0.005%) of some species of wild bat populations may be infected with canine rabies at any one time. In Europe European Bat virus, a rabies-related virus, is found in several species of bats.
Although canine rabies has never been found in South African bats, rabies-like viruses called lyssaviruses have, and it is not impossible that a bat infected by a bite from a rabid cat or dog could be found grounded by a human. Always be careful not to get bitten when handling any wild animal, including bats. Use thick gloves or a cloth to handle bats and do not allow children to stroke or handle any grounded bat.
Anyone that is bitten by any wild or stray animal should immediately scrub the wound with soap and water and go within 24 hours to their nearest clinic to start a course of post-exposure rabies vaccinations. These vaccinations are free at State clinics.
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