Alert on rabies risk along the Western Cape coast: be cautious | Western Cape Government


Alert on rabies risk along the Western Cape coast: be cautious

27 June 2024

Alert on rabies risk along the Western Cape coast: High-risk individuals are urged to be cautious

After the recent confirmation of rabies in Cape Fur Seals along the Western Cape coast, residents and travellers are urged to be cautious when visiting our coastline. Individuals who frequently come in contact with seals or using coastal areas for recreational activities, such as: surfers, divers, water sports enthusiasts, and those in the fishing industry particularly are asked to be extra cautious.

Stored samples collected from seals since 2021 by Sea Search are currently being tested to determine the timeline and extent of the outbreak. The Agricultural Research Council's Onderstepoort Veterinary Research has confirmed positive rabies cases in seals from Melkbosstrand (October 2023), Plettenberg Bay (January 2024), and Die Dam near Gansbaai (June 2024). Additionally, researchers at the University of Pretoria have detected rabies in seals from Fish Hoek (October 2023), Pringle Bay (February 2024), Strand (May 2024), and Muizenberg (May 2024).

These findings highlight the potential for rabies cases along the entire coastline where seals are present.

Critical information on rabies

Rabies is a serious and often fatal disease. The rabies virus is spread to humans and other animals through contact with the saliva of infected animals. Humans can be exposed to rabies through bites, scratches or licks to wounds, grazes, broken skin, or to the lining of the mouth and nose by rabid animals.

The common signs and symptoms of rabies in people include discomfort or pain at the site of the (previous) wound, fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting. This rapidly progresses to signs of neurological dysfunction, which may include changed behaviour, confusion, and agitation. People with rabies can also display hypersalivation, localized weakness and paralytic syndromes, which eventually progresses to coma and death.

Immediate medical attention following suspected rabies exposure is critical. If no post-exposure prophylaxis is given, an infected person may start experiencing symptoms 1 to 3 months after exposure. In rare cases, symptoms can develop after more than six months following an exposure.

Urgent advice for seal bite victims

If you have been bitten by a seal in the last six months, it is crucial to seek medical evaluation from a healthcare provider (general practitioner, clinic, public or private hospital) immediately. The incident will be assessed for the necessity of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This is irrespective of whether you previously received medical attention for the bite. Rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin is available at strategic public hospitals, emergency centres at private hospitals, travel clinics and selected pharmacies.  

Guidance for animal bites

For bites from animals such as dogs, cats, mongooses, jackals, or seals, follow these steps:

  • Clean the wound thoroughly with soap and water, as soon as possible after the injury.
  • Visit a hospital emergency centre promptly for a medical assessment.
  • The need for PEP with rabies vaccine and rabies immunoglobulin administration will be determined based on the category or nature of the bite, severity, and risk assessment for potential rabies exposure.

Additional measures

  • Avoid interacting with seals and other wild animals.
  • Ensure your pets' rabies vaccinations are current. Pets need revaccination every 1-3 years, depending on the vaccine and regional rabies risk.
  • Keep dogs controlled or on a leash to prevent contact with wild animals.
  • Report any strange animal behaviour to the local State Veterinary Office (

Stay informed, stay safe, and take immediate action if exposed. Rabies is preventable with prompt and appropriate medical care.

For more information, contact your local healthcare provider or visit the nearest medical centre. Alternatively for more information on rabies and its preventions, please visit:

Additional resources and information from the NICD: