Second person tested for rabies in Britain
A possible new British case of rabies is being investigated, disease control experts have confirmed.
The Health Protection Agency said a second person was being tested for the disease, two days after it confirmed a case of the potentially fatal illness in a patient who had been bitten by a dog in South Asia.
The woman, believed to be a grandmother in her 50s, was reportedly turned away twice by doctors at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, before she was finally diagnosed. The hospital has launched an investigation.
The HPA was unable to release details of who the new person being tested was, or where they were from.
"There is another person being looked at," a spokeswoman said.
"There are eight people this year who have been through this process."
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 woman with rabies is now being treated at London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases, which has reassured patients, visitors and staff there is no risk to them as a result of the case.
Dr Brian McCloskey, director of the HPA for London, said: "It is important to stress that there is no risk to the general public as a result of this case or to patients and visitors at the hospital where the patient is receiving treatment.
"Despite there being tens of thousands of rabies cases each year worldwide, there have been no documented laboratory confirmed cases of human-to-human spread.
"Therefore, the risk to other humans or animals from a patient with rabies is considered negligible.
"However, to take every possible precaution, family members and healthcare staff who had close contact with the patient since they became unwell - which is when they are infectious - have been assessed and offered vaccination if appropriate.''
A spokesman for Darent Valley Hospital said an investigation was under way into the lady's attendance at its emergency department.
He said: "The UK is rabies free. If a patient does present at hospital with vague symptoms, a doctor is unlikely to consider rabies as a diagnosis unless the patient highlights wild animal contact in an at risk country.
"The hospital responded to the information supplied by the patient at the time.
"Although there are no cases of rabies being passed through human-to-human contact, the five members of staff that came into close contact with the patient are being vaccinated as a precautionary measure."