Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Global Impact: Rabies Victim, Bitten in South Asia, Dies in the UK

An unidentified woman in her 50s who was bitten by a rabid dog in South Asia died over the weekend in Dartford, Kent (UK), presumably because her condition was not promptly diagnosed and treated.

According to local media, the bite victim was reportedly turned away twice by the medical staff at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, before she was properly diagnosed and treated at London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

Darent Valley made a statement last week, pointing out that due to the fact that the UK is rabies-free, if a patient checks into a British hospital and does not highlight the fact that they have been bitten by a dog abroad, which was the case with the woman bitten, it is unlikely that they will be treated for rabies.

Darent Valley responded to the information supplied by the patient at the time. That being said, the misdiagnosis is being investigated. Hospital staff who came into close contact with the rabies victim are being vaccinated as a precautionary measure.

As many of our regular readers will recall, I filed a posting on May 25 entitled, "Malaysia: Pit Bull Mauling, Death Highlights Need to Prepare for Dog Attacks." Hence, you may wish to refer to this report. 

COMMENT: 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 the disease every year, with most cases occurring in developing countries, particularly south and south-east Asia.

The three-shot preventative series of rabies vaccination is urged for travelers who may not be able to reach a medical facility capable of treating rabies within 24 hours. Yet, the series is expensive. Consequently, travelers operating in major cities rarely need to take the pre-exposure series.

If bitten by ANY dog in a developing country,go to an emergency room immediately and advise the medical staff that you have been bitten by a dog and show them the bite area.

If you cannot reach a medical facility capable of treating rabies WITHIN 24 hours, the pre-exposure series is recommended. After that, the virus begins to enter the nervous system with death being a likely result.

Also keep in mind that leash laws are a rarity in many developing countries. Thus, the potential for risk of exposure is much greater.