An eight-year-old boy from the Ficksburg area in Free State province, South Africa has died from rabies after a dog bite, making him the fifth human rabies case in the country this year.

A canine suspected of being rabid that had been exhibiting signs of restlessness, and overall uncharacteristic aggressive behavior, which are two symptoms of rabies.

According to a Mes Vaccins report (computer translated), the child was bitten on his thigh by a dog in early May.  A few weeks later, he was admitted to hospital with symptoms of rabies infection and died on July 6.

Other human cases have been reported from Limpopo (2), KwaZulu-Natal (1) and Eastern Cape (1).

According to the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual, all mammals are susceptible to rabies. Raccoons, skunks, foxes,bats, dogs, coyotes and cats are the likelysuspects. Other animals like otters and ferrets are also high risk. Mammals like rabbits, squirrels, rodents and opossums are rarely infected.

Rabies infected animals can appear veryaggressive, attacking for no reason. Some may act very tame. They may look like they are foaming at the mouth or drooling because they cannot swallow their saliva.Sometimesthe animal may stagger (this can also be seen in distemper). Not long after this point they will die. Most animals can transmit rabies days before showing symptoms.

Initially, like in many diseases, the symptoms of rabies are non-specific; fever, headache and malaise. This may last several days. At the site of the bite, there may be some pain and discomfort. Symptomsthen progress to more severe: confusion, delirium, abnormal behavior and hallucinations. If it gets this far, the disease is nearly 100% fatal.

With the exception of Antarctica, rabies is endemic on all continents. Worldwide, it is estimated that there are more than 69,000 deaths due to rabies annually, with 95% in Africa and Asia.

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