British Traveler Dies After Contracting Rabies From Cat in Morocco

Nov 12, 2018

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A British traveler has died after contracting rabies from a cat while vacationing in Morocco.

Public Health England (PHE) stated that the victim was infected after being bitten by a rabid cat, but there is “no risk” to the greater public. PHE did offer vaccinations for medical personnel and the victim’s family members. For the family’s privacy, PHE did not release any further details regarding the traveler but reminded travelers to avoid animals in countries where rabies is still prevalent.

Rabies still poses a risk in more than 150 countries, causing tens of thousands of deaths every year primarily in Asia and Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Domestic dogs are responsible for animal-to-human transmission in 99% of rabies cases, says WHO, and the virus is transmitted through bites or scratches from the saliva of an infected animal. There are no known cases of human-to-human transmission.

The rabies virus affects the brain and central nervous system, and is nearly always fatal once symptoms develop, which can take between three to 12 weeks. Initial signs of infection can include anxiety, headaches, fever and muscle spasms in the throat making swallowing difficult, so patients are forced to stay hydrated with IV support. As the disease progresses, the patient may experience hallucinations and respiratory failure.

The most successful way to avoid rabies is through an “extremely effective” series of vaccinations administered immediately after exposure. More than 15 million people each year receive the rabies vaccination after being bitten by an infected animal, which WHO estimates has prevented hundreds of thousands of deaths. Unfortunately, effective vaccination isn’t readily available everywhere in the world, so travelers headed to rabies-active regions are highly encouraged to get preemptive immunizations. 

Featured photo by @crystalmariesing via Twenty20.

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