England health officials issued a travel warning this week after a UK resident died after becoming infected with rabies following a cat bite during a visit to Morocco.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunizations at Public Health England said:
This is an important reminder of the precautions people should take when travelling to countries where rabies is present. If you are bitten, scratched or licked by an animal you must wash the wound or site of exposure with plenty of soap and water and seek medical advice without delay.
There is no risk to the wider public in relation to this case but, as a precautionary measure, health workers and close contacts are being assessed and offered vaccination when necessary.
Rabies death reported in Utah, First since 1944
Rabies does not circulate in either wild or domestic animals in the UK, although some species of bats can carry a rabies-like virus. Human rabies is extremely rare in the UK. No human cases of rabies acquired in the UK from animals other than bats have been reported since 1902.
United Kingdom: Last case of classical human rabies was in 1902
Rabies is common in other parts of the world, especially in Asia and Africa. All travellers to rabies affected countries should avoid contact with dogs, cats and other animals wherever possible, and seek advice about the need for rabies vaccine prior to travel.
Anyone who has been bitten, scratched, or licked by an animal in a country with rabies, or has had direct contact with a bat in this country, should take immediate action by washing the wound or site of exposure with plenty of soap and water. Local medical advice should be sought without delay, even in those who have been previously vaccinated.
LISTEN: Everything you wanted to know about rabies
When given promptly after an exposure, a course of rabies vaccine is extremely effective at preventing the disease. If such an exposure occurs abroad, the traveller should also consult their doctor on return, so that the course of rabies treatment can be completed. If travellers have not sought medical advice abroad, they should contact their doctor promptly upon return for assessment.
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