The KwaZulu Natal and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa have experienced a serious dog
rabies epidemic over the past three decades. Towards a better understanding of this epidemic, we have previously analysed nucleotide sequences of 142 rabies virus specimens that were obtained
from these regions during 2003–2004 and provided a molecular description of the geographical
distribution of rabies viral variants in the affected provinces. Here, as an extension, we studied five human cases that occurred during 2002–2003 and demonstrated the use of the sequence
database in tracking unknown human rabies case histories. We were able to identify the
geographical origin of viruses responsible for each human infection and in one case obtained
evidence that suggested a non-bite transmission of rabies virus from an infected dog to a child.
We argue for the value of this information in surveillance and epidemiological study and in the
follow-up and management of potential exposures.