Rabies killed traveller Photo by Sergey Pesterev on Unsplash

UK resident dies following cat bite while abroad

A UK resident sadly died after becoming infected with rabies following a cat bite during a visit to Morocco. There is no risk to the wider public in relation to this case. But, as a precautionary measure, health workers and close contacts are being assessed and offered vaccination when necessary.

Rabies is passed on through injuries such as bites and scratches from an infected animal. There are no documented instances of direct human to human transmission.

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at PHE said:

“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.”

No human cases of rabies acquired in the UK from animals other than bats have been reported since 1902. A single case of human rabies acquired from a bat was reported in 2002 in Scotland; this individual had sustained a number of bat bites.

Five cases of human rabies associated with animal exposures abroad occurred between 2000 and 2017.

Seek advice about rabies vaccine before travel

Rabies is common in other parts of the world, especially in Asia and Africa. All travellers to rabies affected countries should avoid contact with dogs, cats and other animals wherever possible, and seek advice about the need for rabies vaccine prior to travel.

Anyone who has been bitten, scratched, or licked by an animal in a country with rabies, or has had direct contact with a bat in this country, should take immediate action by washing the wound or site of exposure with plenty of soap and water.

Local medical advice should be sought without delay, even in those who have been previously vaccinated.

When given promptly after an exposure, a course of rabies vaccine is extremely effective at preventing the disease. If such an exposure occurs abroad, the traveller should also consult their doctor on return, so that the course of rabies treatment can be completed.

If travellers have not sought medical advice abroad, they should contact their doctor promptly upon return for assessment.

For more information on the risk of rabies in different countries, see the country information pages on the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s (NaTHNaC’s) website, TravelHealthPro.

For more general information about rabies, see the NHS website.

For more information about the risk of rabies in bats in the UK see PHE’s information for individuals who have been bitten by bats.