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  1. ITV Report

Case of rabies confirmed

Darent Valley Hospital Photo:

Darent Valley Hospital in Datrford, Kent, has issued this statement after reports it failed at first to diagnose one its patients had rabies:

"The UK is rabies free. If a patient does present at hospital with vague symptoms a doctor is unlikely to consider rabies as a diagnosis unless the patient highlights wild animal contact in an at risk country. The hospital responded to the information supplied by the patient at the time.

"Although there are no cases of rabies being passed through human-to-human contact, the five members of staff that came into close contact with the patient are being vaccinated as a precautionary measure.

"We have launched an investigation into the circumstances around this lady’s attendance at the emergency department and we are working closely with the Health Protection Agency."

Pet lovers return home in an autorickshaw after vaccinating their dogs on World Zoonoses Day in Hyderabad, India, 2010. Credit: AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A

The potentially fatal disease was confirmed by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) last night, in a patient after they were bitten by a dog in South Asia.

It's the first rabies case in the UK since 2002.

It's been reported that the patient was a grandmother in her 50s. It's believed she is now being treated at University College Hospital, London.

All relevant contacts have been followed up, the HPA said.

Dr Brian McCloskey, director of the HPA for London, said: "It is important to stress that there is no risk to the general public as a result of this case or to patients and visitors at the hospital where the patient is receiving treatment.

"Despite there being tens of thousands of rabies cases each year worldwide, there have been no documented laboratory confirmed cases of human-to-human spread.

"Therefore the risk to other humans or animals from a patient with rabies is considered negligible.

"However to take every possible precaution, family members and healthcare staff who had close contact with the patient since they became unwell - which is when they are infectious - have been assessed and offered vaccination if appropriate."

Rabies is usually transferred through saliva from the bite of an infected animal with dogs being the most common transmitter of rabies to humans.

More than 55,000 people are estimated to die from rabies every year, with most cases occurring in developing countries, particularly South and South-East Asia.

Professor David Brown, a rabies expert at the HPA, said only four cases of human rabiesacquired from dogs have been identified since 2000, all from animals abroad.

He said: "Rabies is an acute viral infection which is extremely rare in the United Kingdom.

"It is essential to get health advice if you are travelling to countries where rabies is common or if you know you will be working with animals.

"All travellers to a rabies-endemic country should avoid contact with cats, dogs and other animals wherever possible as you cannot be certain that there is no risk.

"Rabies vaccine is extremely effective at preventing rabies if you are bitten even when this is given some time after an exposure. If you do not seek medical treatment while abroad, you should still seek it when you come home."

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