In November 2012, Mark was on his way from Pietermaritzburg to Durban when he noticed a dog in the middle of the highway that appeared to have been hit by a car and was severely injured.
As Mark approached the dog, he noticed its head raise slightly and the animal appeared to be alive. Waiting for the traffic to clear, Mark rushed to the dog's aid in hopes to rehabilitate the poor creature.
"Being an animal lover I decided to stop and try and rescue the dog and against my better judgment laid him in the backseat of my car. As I bent over to pick up the dog itjumped up and bit me on the side of my face to form a cut about 10cm longfrom my ear down to my jawbone. The dog then ran away until I managed to catch it and take it to a nearby vet" - Mark recalls.
When Mark arrived at the vet, the doctor voiced his concern that the dog might have rabies on account of the canine's erratic behavior. As a precautionary measure thevet tended to Mark's open woundand sent him to a near by hospital to getRabies Prophylaxis Injections, despite the dog's saliva samples testing negative for the disease.
The vet recommended that the unclaimed dog be put down due to its extensive injuries and arranged that portions of the dog's brain be tested in the lab. More comprehensive tests revealed days later that the dog had indeed contracted the deadly disease and Mark was notified to seek further treatment.
"The experienceweighed heavily on me psychologicallyand still today I struggle to wrap my head around the "What If's". I was lucky. Many others have not been so fortunate. Aconcerning fact about Rabies, is thatonce you have contracted the disease it is fatal. There is no hope for a cure. Even more alarming is the fact thatrabies can manifest inside the human body up to 3 years after exposure. More people need to be aware of this disease to avoid more casualties" - says Mark
Inspired by the remarkable workDr. Vanessa Meyer and her team fromRabies Awareness Eshoweare doingto eradicate rabies, Mark set up a campaign on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy, to raised funds for an organization on the front line of this epidemic, in celebration his 40th birthday.
"I hope to raise R5000,Rabies Awareness Eshowe, to empower them to vaccinate as many animals as possible in the Ballito area. With this effort I also hope tocreate awareness and educate others especially those in disadvantaged or high-risk areas, so they can better protect themselves and their loved ones." - says Mark
Rabies Awareness Eshowe is a community based organization based in KZN have proven invaluable in their community. The organization began in August 2017, at the dawn of the Zululand Rabies outbreak.
"The Department of Agriculture has 180 field workers in a province of an estimated 1.2 million dogs. Our aim was to take some of the load off their shoulders and assist with rabies awareness. We are currently 3 ladies that see to the running of our group on a daily basis - myself, Cathy Munro, Lee-Anne Watkins as well as 11 registered vaccinators who volunteer their time and assist when we run vaccination campaigns in our area." - says Dr Vanessa Meyer.
Receiving no government funding the team try to keep their expenses as low as possible.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, cases have also been confirmed in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, with another possible case in the Free State.There's cause for concern says Vanessa.
"As of April 2018, we have seen a 400% increase in the number of rabies cases, and so far this year 4 human lives have tragically been lost to rabies. Rabies is the deadliest disease on earth and very close to 100% fatal. People die from rabies only due to lack of awareness and lack of primary health care. Approximately 55000 people die every year from rabies worldwide." - says Vanessa
"Rabies is a deadly disease that can't be ignored. It doesn't discriminate but it can be eradicated - if we stand together" - says Mark