Rabies case in South-West France

The Health Protection Agency has become aware of a case of confirmed rabies, diagnosed in a dog in South-West France. The dog, which has died, had been imported illegally into the European Union through Spain from Morocco and then onto France.

The animal has had contact with both humans and with other dogs including in tourist areas. Some people are known to have been bitten. The French health authorities are attempting to trace and treat those individuals in France.

The period and places in France where the dog may have bitten people are known. The French national public health body, the Institute de Vielle Sanitaire (INVS), which is co-ordinating investigations has identified 2nd to 21st August as the period when the dog was infectious. During this period, the owner, who lives in Bordeaux (Gironde county) in South-West France took it for frequent walks in the centre of the city, particularly around the river and botanical gardens. He also went to other places in Gironde and the neighbouring counties of Dordogne, Garonne and Lot. In particular:

2nd August in Hostens (Gironde)
5th August at the festival in Perigueux (Dordogne)
7-8th August at the street festival in Miramont de Guyenne (Lot and Garonne)
12-14th August at the music festival in Libourne (Gironde)

The dog, a female, was only 4 months old, of average size with long brown hair, tail and ears.

The Health Protection Agency is advising the public that if they recently sustained a bite from a dog fitting the above description while travelling or on holiday in the above specific dates and places in South-West France, that they should urgently seek medical advice from their GPs or NHS Direct. Doctors so approached should then seek expert advice and possible treatment for their patients as they would in any case of dog bite where rabies may be involved. GPs and health professionals can get further information from the Health Protection Agency and if necessary provision of vaccine.

People bitten by a dog fitting this description on the dates and in the places indicated are likely to need treatment for rabies. However France should still be regarded as remaining free of rabies. Persons bitten by dogs outside of these times and places may be reassured and do not require treatment.

Persons travelling with pets to France and other EU countries can be expected to have done so under the Pet Travel Scheme. This requires that animals are vaccinated against rabies and show protection through a blood test. However no vaccination is completely effective and should persons with pets think that they may have been bitten by the dog concerned, or if they have any other health concerns, they should contact their private veterinary surgeon.

Rabies is an acute viral infection that is extremely rare in the UK; the last case of classical rabies acquired in this country was a century ago, in 1902. Very occasionally cases occurring since then have all been acquired abroad, usually through dog bites. Transmission is usually through saliva via the bite of an infected animal; there are no documented cases of human-to-human transmission. Since 1946 there have been 22 deaths in the UK from rabies acquired abroad. A person who is bitten by a rabid animal but given treatment with rabies vaccines can expect not to develop rabies.

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