Gastrointestinal & Zoonoses

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Gastrointestinal & Zoonoses

Rabies

Epidemiology

Rabies exists in many animal populations in many European countries and throughout the world. In Europe, the animal reservoirs include dogs, cats, foxes, wolves, bats, squirrels and horses, and transmission to humans occurs by being bitten or scratched by an infected animal or by being licked on a mucosal surface, such as the conjunctiva, by such an animal. A number of EU countries including the UK are rabies-free, but even in these there is a potential risk of human infection from bats. European bat lyssaviruses (EBLV) are rabies-related viruses and are not the same strain as that carried by animals such as dogs, cats, foxes, etc. EBLV is found in bats across northern Europe. Human rabies cases are extremely rare in Europe.

Main clinical features

Following an animal bite or scratch, a 2 – 10 day period of non-specific symptoms (tiredness, weakness, loss of appetite, headache, fever, other aches and pains, numbness or itching at the site of the bite or scratch), which may be accompanied by changes in personality and agitation. Subsequent progression is to acute nervous system dysfunction with spasms, extreme excitement, hydrophobia and finally unconsciousness, paralysis and death.

Incubation period

Usually 3 – 8 weeks, but may range from 9 days to 7 years or more.

Surveillance

Samples would be sent to Veterinary Laboratories Agency (Rabies Unit) for testing.

Annual Surveillance Tables

1 fatal case of European bat lyssavirus (EBLV) in a human in Scotland in 2002. In the UK the last human death from classical rabies, which was not acquired abroad, occurred in 1902.

Guidance

The latest rabies guidance is available on our guidance page.

Rabies Geographical Risk

Further information