British woman's rabies death prompts new travel warning

Ruth Doherty
British woman's rabies death prompts new travel warning
British woman's rabies death prompts new travel warning

Stock photo, India: Rex

Following a British woman's death from rabies last month, the World Health Organisation has introduced a country-by-country guide on pre-travel rabies vaccinations.

The new advice will sit alongside guides for yellow fever and malaria protection, and comes after the woman's death from the disease, which she contracted as a result of an untreated bite from a dog in India.

According to the Telegraph, in the case of India, for example, it now says: "Rabies: High risk – Pre-exposure immunisation [is] recommended for travellers and other people for whom contact with domestic animals, particularly dogs, and other rabies vectors is likely."

Specialist in rabies, Dr May Warrell, said the tragic incident highlighted the need for precautions, adding: "In unvaccinated humans, dog rabies infection is 100 per cent fatal once symptoms appear."

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 the disease every year, with most cases occurring in developing countries, particularly south and south-east Asia.

According to the Independent, the woman who recently passed away was thought to be a grandmother in her 50s.

She was reportedly turned away twice by doctors at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, before she was finally diagnosed and treated at London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

Dr Ron Behrens, travel medicine expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said anyone bitten by a rabid dog had "roughly 24 hours where treatment with an antibody can prevent the virus entering the nervous system".

If that happens, he said, the prognosis is extremely "bleak".

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