The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has become aware of a case of confirmed rabies in a dog, diagnosed in France on the 26th February.
The French authorities have identified 4 potential risk areas where people may have been exposed to rabies. The risk of rabies is considered ongoing in these areas.
The geographical areas and corresponding periods of risk are:
- Hautes-Pyrénées ( Tarbes city and surroundings), from the 25th October 2007 onwards
- Gers (Auch city and surroundings), from the 1st November onwards
- Seine-et-Marne, from the 15th December onwards
- Calvados (Lisieux city and Thury Harcourt village and their surroundings), from the 15th December onwards
The risk to humans from this incident is considered low, nonetheless the HPA is advising anyone who has sustained a dog bite while travelling or staying in the regions of France during the dates detailed above to seek prompt medical advice from their GP or NHS Direct.
GPs, A&Es and other health care professionals are asked to be vigilant in assessing people who report dog bites which occurred in the affected French regions during the periods of risk. Doctors are also asked to check records to review and reassess any cases who have previously presented with dog bites after travelling to the affected areas, who may have been reassured that there was no risk of rabies in France.
Dr David Brown , a rabies expert at the HPA, said: “Rabies is an acute viral infection but one that is extremely rare in the UK and other parts of Europe . The risk to UK travellers is considered low; nonetheless we are advising anyone who has had significant contact with dogs such as having been bitten, scratched or licked around the eyes, mouth or on an open wound, during a stay in the affected French regions, to seek prompt medical advice.
“Prompt post exposure treatment following a bite is effective in preventing rabies.”
The Health Protection Agency is in close contact with the French authorities, who have undertaken a full risk assessment. Since the French investigations are ongoing the HPA will issue further advice on its website as and when this becomes available.
There have been no human cases of rabies reported in France due to this incident .
Until further information is available, travellers to the affected areas of France are advised to avoid contact with animals wherever possible and to seek early medical assessment in the case of bites, scratches or licks from dogs.