Rabies in southern Africa
Swanepoel, Robert; Barnard, B.J.H.; Meredith, C.D.; Bishop, G.C.; Foggin, Chris M.; Hubschle, Otto J.B.; Bruckner, Gideon K.; Rabies in Southern and Eastern Africa. Workshop. (1993, Pretoria, South Africa); Verwoerd, Daniel Wynand
The first confirmed outbreak of rabies in Africa, believed to have followed the importation of an infected
dog from England in 1892, occurred in the eastern Cape Province of South Africa, and was brought under
control in 1894. An unconfirmed epidemic of rabies in dogs occurred in western Zambia in 1901. By the
following year the disease had apparently spread along a major trade route, to cause an outbreak in
Zimbabwe which engulfed most of the country before being eradicated in 1913. The existence of endemic
rabies of viverrids (mongooses and genets) was confirmed in South Africa in 1928, and since then the
viverrid disease has continued to occur widely on the interior plateau of the country with spill-over of
infection to cattle and a variety of other animals. From about 1947 onwards, an invasive form of dog
rabies spread from southern Zambia and/or Angola into Namibia, across northern and eastern Botswana
into Zimbabwe and the northern Transvaal by 1950, entered Mozambique in 1952, and spread from there
to Swaziland in 1954. Dog rabies extended from southern Mozambique into Natal in 1961 to cause a
major epidemic which was brought under control in 1968. The disease re-entered northern Natal from
Mozambique in 1976 and since then dog rabies has proved difficult to control in the peri-urban settlements
of Natal-KwaZulu. The disease spread from Natal to Lesotho in 1982, and into the Transkei region of the
eastern Cape Province in 1987, to reach the Ciskei by 1990. The spread of the disease in dogs was
followed by the emergence of rabies of jackals and cattle in central Namibia, northern Botswana, Zimbabwe
and the northern Transvaal. A unique outbreak of rabies in kudu antelope occurred in central Namibia
from 1977 to 1985, apparently involving oral spread of infection between individuals. A few cases of rabies
in the bat-eared fox were recognized each year in Namibia from 1967 onwards, and from the 1970s the
occurrence of the disease in the fox has emerged as a distinct problem in the northern Cape Province
and spread to the west coast. The rabies-related viruses, Lagos bat, Mokola and Duvenhage, associated
with bats, shrews and rodents in Africa, are known to have caused isolated cases of disease in South Africa,
and on one occasion a small outbreak involving six cats and a dog in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. However,
the results of monoclonal antibody tests on numerous specimens indicate that the rabies-related
viruses are not a major cause of disease in southern Africa.
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