oa Southern African Journal of Epidemiology and Infection - Dog bites and human rabies in the Uthungulu District of KwaZulu-Natal province, 2008-2010 : a review of surveillance data : original research

Volume 28, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1015-8782
  • E-ISSN: 2220-1084



The Uthungulu District in KwaZulu-Natal province is the area that is most affected by rabies in South Africa. Usually, the transmission of rabies to humans occurs through the bites of infected dogs. In 2008, Uthungulu commenced a programme to eliminate human rabies in the district. This paper describes the epidemiology of dog bites and human rabies in the Uthungulu District from 2008-2010, and the extent of adherence to rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). The method was a retrospective analysis of dog-bite and human rabies surveillance data that were collected in Uthungulu from January 2008-December 2010. Dog-bite injuries in Uthungulu increased from 1 176 in 2008 to 2 365 in 2009, and decreased to 1 598 in 2010. Of 2 601 patients who were offered rabies PEP in 2009 and 2010, 83.7% [95% confidence interval (CI): 82.4-85.2] completed the treatment. Logistic regression analysis found that investigation of the report by an environmental healthcare practitioner [odds ratio (OR) = 3.95; 95% CI: 2.43-6.43, p-value = 0 .0001], the availability of patient telephone contact details in the healthcare facility's records (OR = 1.76; 95% CI: 1.02-3.03, p-value = 0.041), and bite wounds that were classified as Category 3 exposure injuries (OR = 2.96; 95% CI: 1.39-6.29, p-value = 0.004), were independently associated with completion of rabies PEP. Seven human rabies cases were reported (four in 2008, two in 2009 and one in 2010). Annualised human rabies incidence rates decreased from four cases per million in 2008 to one case per million in 2010. The findings suggest that the rabies elimination initiative is having an impact on the reduction of the incidence of human rabies in Uthungulu. The district should strengthen the follow-up of people who are exposed to rabies to ensure PEP completion.

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