British tourist dies after contracting rabies from cat bite in Morocco

Confirmed case of rabies

Confirmed case of rabies

A British man is dead after authorities say he sustained a bite from a rabid cat while traveling overseas.

More than 100 years have passed since "classical" rabies - typically found in dogs - was caught from an animal in this country.

Once symptoms have developed, rabies is nearly always fatal.

Professor Whitworth said the victim "in this tragic case" was bitten just a few weeks ago. It said health workers and close contacts of the deceased were being assessed and offered vaccination where necessary.

"But it can be as short as a week and that's why seeking prompt care and getting vaccination is so important".

It was only when she went back to her GP, who had seen a case of rabies before, that he suspected she might have contracted the rare illness.

The last recorded rabies case in Britain was in 2012, after a United Kingdom resident was bitten by a dog - the most common source of infection in most parts of the world - in South Asia.

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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.

PHE describes rabies as a "very serious viral infection", which affects the brain and central nervous system, but initial symptoms can be as unsuspecting as a headache.

Rabies occurs in more than 150 countries and territories worldwide.

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.

An estimated 95% of instances occur in Africa and Asia, according to the World Health Organization, with over 99% of cases due to dog bites.

"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", she said. Spasms of the muscles used for swallowing make it hard for the patient to drink.

The UK has been rabies-free since the beginning of the 20th century, with the exception of rabies-like viruses in some wild bat species. There's also a vaccine for people at risk of being infected.

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