London woman fighting for life in hospital after puppy bite gives her RABIES
A grandmother is fighting for life in a London hospital after contracting rabies while on holiday.
The woman, in her 50s, was bitten by a puppy nine weeks ago while on a trip to India.
She was reportedly sent home three times by her GP and from a hospital's A&E department before doctors identified the condition.
She is currently fighting for life in isolation at London's Hospital for Tropical diseases. It is feared she is unlikely to survive.
This case is the first to emerge in the UK for a decade.
Rabies is most commonly spread by dog bites and there are an estimated 55,000 cases each year. Symptoms include raging fever, numbness, hallucinations, convulsions and fear of water.
It is almost always fatal once symptoms have developed.
The Sun newspaper reported today that a total of 20 people had to be vaccinated against the disease after the woman's condition was properly diagnosed.
They included six of the woman's relatives, hospital medics, and at least one GP.
Risk of transmission of the disease from human to human is tiny. People were vaccinated as a precaution.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) last night confirmed the case.
The HPA said there was no risk to the public as all contacts had been followed up.
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 rabies acquired 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."
The last person in the UK to die of rabies was Scottish conservationist David McRae, 53, he was killed in 2002 after contracting the disease from a bat bite.
The last known case before that was reported in 1902.
Source: THis is London