Thai health officials are reporting the first human rabies death of 2019. Disease Control Department director-general Dr Suwannachai Wattanayingcharoenchai says the victim is a 32-year-old man in Surin.

Image/Robert Herriman

The man was bitten by a stray dog in November and never sought out medical treatment and rabies post-exposure prophylaxis.

“If a cat or a dog scratches or bites you or licks your wound, you have to promptly clean the wound with soap and water repeatedly for about 10 minutes,” Wattanayingcharoenchai advised.

“Then add Povidone-iodine [betadine] to lower the chance of rabies infection and see a doctor immediately for diagnosis and vaccination.”

Rabies: What should you do if you’re exposed?

According to the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted through the saliva or tissues from the nervous system from an infected mammal to another mammal.

The rabies virus attacks the central nervous system causing severely distressing neurological symptoms before causing the victim to die. Without post exposure prophylaxis (rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin) rabies is nearly a certain death sentence. Rabies is the deadliest disease on earth with a 99.9% fatality rate without post exposure prophylaxis.

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Rabies is found on every continent except Antarctica with over 90% of rabies deaths are in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Estimates are that 55,000 people die from the disease every year.