A fatal case of rabies in a female resident was reported by Latvian health authorities in December 2019. Rabies is not usually present in Latvia and investigations indicated that the patient had previously travelled to Asia where she had suffered an animal bite. Testing showed she was infected with a rabies virus of a type circulating in Asia.
On 11 December 2019, public health authorities in Spain confirmed rabies in a man who was bitten by a cat in Morocco in August. On the same day, hospital staff in Italy reported that a 44 year-old man had died from rabies in Apulia, southern Italy, on 19 November 2019. The victim was bitten by a dog in Zanzibar, Tanzania in September 2019 and was admitted to hospital in Italy a month later.
Advice for travellers
- Any animal contact in a rabies endemic area poses a potential risk of infection.
- All travellers to rabies endemic areas should be aware of the risk of rabies and advised to avoid contact with animals, both wild and domestic, particularly dogs and cats.
- Children are more vulnerable to rabies than adults as they are less likely to comprehend the risk of animal contact, less able to defend themselves from an animal attack and may not report a potential exposure.
- All travellers to endemic areas should be aware of immediate wound care and advised to seek medical attention immediately if suffering a potential rabies exposure. See the rabies chapter in the Public Health England (PHE) Green Book.
- An effective rabies vaccination, which can be used pre- and post-exposure, is available and prevents clinical rabies developing. Rabies is invariably fatal once symptoms develop.
Further information on rabies, including vaccination and post-exposure advice, can be accessed on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.