Rabies confirmed in a seal from Cape Town – Report seal bites | Western Cape Government



Rabies confirmed in a seal from Cape Town – Report seal bites

11 June 2024

On 7 June 2024, a case of rabies was confirmed in a wild Cape fur seal from Big Bay, Blouberg, Cape Town. Suspected positive results have also been received for seals sampled at Strand on 15 May and Muizenberg on 26 May.

The Western Cape Veterinary Services, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE), City of Cape Town Coastal Management, and other partners are working to establish the origin and extent of the outbreak through further sampling and testing. Once determined, a management plan will be formulated. Rabies has not been detected in seals in Southern Africa, and this is one of very few detections in seals worldwide.

Please note the following:

  • It is normal for seals to haul out to rest on beaches in the Cape provinces, and dead seals are also common. A seal may act aggressively if it feels threatened.
  • Given that rabies infections are fatal in unvaccinated animals and people, and there is no treatment, a precautionary approach is being taken.

Precautionary measures:

  • Avoid all human and animal contact with seals or any wildlife.
  • Anyone bitten by a seal should immediately seek medical attention.
  • Anyone with an animal bitten by a seal in the last 6 months should consult the local state veterinarian (see link below).
  • Report the date and location of the bite event, type of wounds, treatment received, and vaccination status of the animal patient (provide written proof of vaccination and dates, if possible).
  • Ensure your animal’s rabies vaccine is up to date. By law, all dogs and cats in South Africa must be vaccinated against rabies by their owners.

Rabies is transmitted through direct contact between infected animals, including licking, scratching, nipping, and biting. Rabies can be transmitted to people through the lick, scratch, or bite of a rabid animal or any saliva contact with broken skin.

If bitten by a suspected rabid animal:

  1. Clean the wound with soap and water for 15 minutes. This is a critical step and should be done immediately.
  2. Go to the hospital/emergency room/clinic for further medical attention. You will be assessed, and arrangements made for you to receive post-exposure prophylaxis, which usually includes a series of rabies vaccinations and rabies immunoglobulins/antibodies (RIG), depending on the nature of the bite. RIG is not available everywhere – the doctor will guide you on your next steps. The doctor can call the nearest public sector hospital to determine where vaccine and RIG stocks are available.

Rabies vaccinations for animals are available throughout the province at private veterinary clinics, animal welfare organisations, and during pre-arranged vaccination campaigns by Western Cape Veterinary Services.

For more information about rabies and the contact details of your local Western Cape State Veterinarian, please visit https://www.elsenburg.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/RabiesAwareness-FAQ.pdf 


Media Enquiries: 

Mary James

Head of Communication

Cell: 084 817 2376

Email: Mary.James@westerncape.gov.za