Southern and Eastern African Rabies Group

User Tools

Site Tools


Version française

This section presents information on the disease and the virus, on rabies in Africa, on the epidemiological situation in the SEARG region and in Africa.
It also provides different technical information on rabies diagnosis.

The following links provide information on:


Rabies is a fatal encephalitic 1) disease caused by all members of the Lyssavirus genus, in the family Rhabdoviridae. The Lyssavirus genus includes 11 species of rabies and rabies-related viruses (ICTV, 2010). The virus known as classical rabies virus is the type species, which affects all terrestrial mammalian species. Once symptoms of a rabies infection have manifested, the disease is invariably fatal. Cosmopolitan rabies virus is a classical rabies virus and is distributed globally, excepting countries such as Australia, some parts of Scandinavia, Antarctica, United Kingdom and several smaller islands.

Different videos about rabies have been collected by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, they can be found here.

Rabies in Africa

In Africa, the primary vector is the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) which accounts for most of the human cases every year. However, jackals (Canis spp.), spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta), domestic and wild cats (Felis spp.) and bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis) are also major vectors on the continent. Rabies is thought to have been present in North Africa for hundreds of years; however, in sub-Saharan Africa it has only recently become epizootic. The cosmopolitan rabies lineage, which today is the most widespread and dominant rabies virus globally, is thought to have been introduced into sub-Saharan Africa in the twentieth century from Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. This virus is spread in domestic dogs and canid wildlife of the entire sub-continent. In addition, a mongoose rabies virus variant, unique to southern Africa, circulates in non-canid populations including members of the Herpestidae and Viverridae families such as genets, badgers, mongooses and suricates, but has also been shown to infect a wide range of other wildlife species. In another unique situation in Namibia, kudu antelope (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) are known to be able to maintain epidemiological cycles of rabies, and is at present the only known herbivorous species to do so.

insert here pictures of dog, jackal, yellow mongoose, bat eared fox, kudu and bat

Several other members of the Lyssavirus genus are endemic to Africa, including

  • Lagos Bat Virus (LBV) – which circulates in frugivorous bat species in southern African regions with infrequent spill-over infections to other mammalian species such as cats, dogs and mongooses (Markotter et al., 2008);
  • Mokola virus (MOKV) – whose host species is yet to be determined, with infections seen in shrews, cats, dogs and rodents;
  • Duvenhage virus (DUVV) – isolated from insectivorous bats such as Nycteris species; and finally,
  • Shimoni bat virus (SHIBV) - a putative member of the Lyssavirus genus which has been isolated from Kenya from an insectivorous bat, Hipposideros commersoni (Kuzmin et al, 2010).

Rabies remains a preventable disease through effective vaccination. Although rabies is able to infect all terrestrial mammals in Africa, the primary focus of all rabies eradication programmes should be on domestic dog populations. Rabies control programmes among wildlife species are only feasible when rabies among the surrounding domestic dog population is also being controlled. Due to the close interaction of humans and dogs, the control of rabies in domestic dogs invariably leads to a decline in human rabies cases.

For a more comprehensive review of rabies and rabies related lyssaviruses in Africa, please refer to “Emergence of Lyssaviruses in the Old World: The case of Africa” by L.H. Nel and C.E. Rupprecht pages 161-193 in the Book “Wildlife and Emerging Zoonotic Diseases” by J.E. Childs, J.S. Mackenzie and J.A. Richt


  • Gould, A.R., Hyatt, A.D., Lunt, R., Kattenbelt, J.A., Hengstberger, S. and Blacksell, S.D. 1998. Characterisation of a novel Lyssavirus isolated from Pteropid bats in Australia. Virus Research, 54, 165-187
  • International Committee for the Taxonomy of Viruses, 2010. ICTV Master species list. 16 November 2009. Found at:
  • Kuzmin, I.V., Mayer, A.E., Niezgoda, M., Markotter, W., Agwanda, B., Breiman, R.F. and Rupprecht, C.E. 2010. Shimoni bat virus, a new representative of the Lyssavirus genus. Virus Research, 149, 197-210
  • Markotter, W., Kuzmin, I.V., Rupprecht, C.E. and Nel, L.H. 2008. Phylogeny of Lagos Bat Virus: Challenges for Lyssavirus taxonomy. Virus Research, 135, 1, 10-21
  • Nel, L.H. and Rupprecht, C.E. 2007. Emergence of Lyssaviruses in the Old World: The case of Africa. Vol 315. Pp 161-193. In Book: Wildlife and Emerging Zoonotic Diseases: The Biology, Circumstances and consequences of cross-species transmission. Childs, J.E., Mackenzie, J.S. and Richt, J.A. Springer publishing.
1) infection of the brain
aboutrabies.txt · Last modified: 2014/11/30 09:34 by admin