The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) has confirmed five human cases of rabies in South Africa since December 2017.
The cases were recorded in patients from Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape and two patients in KwaZulu-Natal.
"Another probable case of rabies was reported from the Free State in December 2017, involving a patient that presented and died with the clinical diagnosis of rabies and suffered an exposure to a domestic cat before falling ill. In this case, laboratory confirmation was not possible due to the lack of appropriate specimens to do so," said the NICD.
The six cases involved exposure to rabid domestic dogs in three of the cases and domestic cats in the other three.
NICD said rabies in humans can be prevented through post-exposure prophylaxis.
"When a possible exposure occurs it is important to wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and present to a healthcare facility for a rabies risk assessment as soon as possible," the institute said.
The treatment includes a series of rabies vaccinations and the administration of rabies immunoglobulin. Wound treatment, including washing and disinfection of the wounds, a tetanus booster vaccination and possibly antibiotic treatment, depending on the nature of the exposure, will also help the healthcare facility see what sort of treatment you would need.
While the six cases involved rabid cats and dogs, other animals may also become infected with the disease and transmit the virus to humans. The NCID said such reports are less common.
The rabies virus is present in the saliva of the affected animal and may be transmitted to humans through bites, scratches or other wounds that break the skin and allow the infected saliva to enter the bloodstream.
"Rabies vaccination of domestic dogs and cats are mandatory by law in South Africa and the onus is on pet owners to ensure that their pets are vaccinated on schedule. Vaccinate your pets today," the NICD urged.