The Ministry of Health confirmed today that a child died of rabies about a month ago. The Palestinian boy was bitten in the Jordan Valley in early October by a stray dog and was not vaccinated after being bitten. Only after symptoms began to appear and his condition deteriorated was he admitted to the An-Najah hospital in Nablus and died. This week, two cases of rabies were added to the 44 cases currently recorded in Israel, a large increase compared to 2022, in which 29 cases were found.
Rabies is a fatal neurological disease with a virtually 100% mortality rate for both humans and animals if a vaccination is not administered before the onset of symptoms. The first known person to survive the virus without vaccination was treated in 2015 using a method now known as the Milwaukee Protocol, which remains controversial.
The virus affects all mammals and is transmitted in saliva, mainly by biting. The virus is also transmitted to people through scratching or licking mucous membranes.
The disease can be prevented in animals with a vaccine given ahead of time and in humans through a series of vaccination injections that are given after exposure to the virus and protect against the development of rabies.
The last time a person died in Israel from the deadly virus was in 2002. Before that, in 1997, three people died in Israel from rabies, including a soldier. This month, several animals infected with rabies were found in the north of the country. The most recent case was last Wednesday: a rabies-infected bull was found in an almond orchard at Kibbutz Ein Harod in Israel’s North.
Animals entering from Gaza are probably not vaccinated against rabies
Almost all cases of rabies in Israel are in the North, in the Gilboa area. In the Ministry of Agriculture’s veterinary services records, a rabies case will only be recognized after the animal suspected of having the deadly disease is caught, sent for testing at the veterinary institute’s rabies laboratory, and confirmed to have been infected with the virus.
Therefore, if the attacking animal, usually a jackal or a dog, has behavior typical of an animal infected with rabies but is not caught, it will not be included in the number of cases. As such, it is certain that the real number of cases is greater than the number reported by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Since the war began, stories have come out about soldiers bringing dogs and cats back to Israel with them from Gaza. In addition, the major damages to the barrier separating Israel and the Gaza Strip could allow stray animals to cross into Israel. It is probably the case that most animals that would enter Israel from Gaza are not vaccinated against rabies.