Rabies Death: Briton Dies After Contracting Disease On Holiday In Morocco

Laverne Higgins
November 15, 2018

A Briton has died after being bitten by a cat with rabies in Morocco, officials said Monday (Nov 12), only the seventh known case in the United Kingdom since 2000.

Public Health England (PHE) said today that the tourist was bitten by a cat during their visit.

While there is "no risk" to the wider public, the victim's family, friends and involved medical staff are being monitored and provided with vaccinations if necessary, the health agency said.

As is the case here, rabies is passed on through injuries such as bites and scratches from an infected animal.

Rabies does not circulate in either wild or domestic animals in Ireland or the United Kingdom - but between the years 2000 and 2017 five United Kingdom residents became infected with rabies after animal exposures overseas. That case was reported in Scotland in 2002, with the victim having sustained a number of bat bites.

If you're travelling to a country where rabies is common, you should consider getting vaccinated if you plan to stay for a month or more.

It is found throughout the world but is more common in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.

Rabies, which is nearly always fatal once symptoms appear, is an infectious viral disease which affects the brain and central nervous system.

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PHE head of immunisations Mary Ramsay said the fatality in Morocco was an important reminder of the precautions people should take when travelling to countries where rabies is present.

More country specific information on rabies is available through the National Travel Health Network and Centre's website.

The last recorded rabies case in Britain was in 2012, when a British grandmother was bitten by her son's pet dog in India. The virus is transmitted to humans through animal bites, and can't spread through physical contact or airborne means in the way that other zoonotic infections can.

Animals in the United Kingdom are not affected apart from a small number of wild bats. It is usually caught from the bite or scratch from an infected animal. Although the disease can be prevented by vaccination, once the illness develops it is nearly always fatal.

What can start as a headache can progress into hallucinations, respitatory failure and spams in muscles used for swallowing.

If the condition is diagnosed before symptoms have appear, however, treatment is very effective.

It said symptoms could appear within several days of exposure to an infected animal, but could take years to emerge.

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