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PHE asks GPs to consider rabies after cat-bite death

Public Health England has reminded GPs to carry-out a risk assessment on patients returning from abroad with animal bites, or those bitten by bats in the UK, and consider rabies.

This comes after a man died in the UK’s first case of rabies since 2012, after being bitten by a cat while visiting Morocco.

PHE issued a warning to people travelling to countries affected by rabies last week, telling them to avoid coming into contact with animals, and updated its advice to healthcare professionals.

Head of immunisations Dr Mary Ramsay said: ‘If GPs see patients presenting following an animal bite abroad or a bat bite in the UK, a risk assessment should always be carried out to decide what post-exposure treatment may be needed.

‘Due to the potentially long incubation period of the rabies virus there is no time limit for giving post-exposure treatment and all potential exposures should be risk assessed.’

Dr Ramsay added that PHE’s rabies and immunoglobulin service ‘can carry out this risk assessment with the health professional managing the patient’ if needed.

The incubation period for rabies is typically three to twelve months, but may vary from less than one week to more than two years.

Early on, symptoms of rabies can be non-specific, including a high temperature, headache, feeling unwell, and discomfort at the site of the bite. Later symptoms include confusion, muscle spasms, and difficulty swallowing.

Last month, PHE issued a national warning to GPs after a dead bat with rabies was found in UK.

PHE’s rabies and immunoglobulin service can be contacted on 0208 327 6204.