Briton dies after contracting rabies while on holiday in Morocco

Briton dies from RABIES after being bitten by a cat while on holiday in Morocco

  • A British tourist travelling in Morocco was bitten by a cat and died from rabies
  • The holidaymaker died in the UK after returning from Morocco earlier this year 
  • Public Health England sends out warning to other holidaymakers after death 

A British tourist has died after contracting rabies from a cat bite while on holiday in Morocco, it was announced this morning.

The holidaymaker died after returning to Britain from North Africa and their family and friends, as well as medics involved in the case, are being monitored and offered vaccinations.

Public Health England has released few details about the case, other than saying that the Briton was bitten by a cat while visiting Morocco and later died.

They refused to confirm whether the tourist was a man or a woman, their age, or where in the UK their died, citing ‘patient confidentiality’. 

A British resident was travelling in Morocco, pictured in file photo, when they were bitten by a cat and later died from rabies, it emerged today

The UK has been rabies-free since the beginning of the 20th century, with the exception of rabies-like viruses in some wild bat species. 

Between 2000 and 2017, five UK residents became infected with rabies from animal abroad. 

Popular tourist destinations like Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey all carry a high risk of dogs transmitting rabies to people, but it is more rare that cat bites are the cause.

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Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at PHE, said: ‘This is an important reminder of the precautions people should take when travelling to countries where rabies is present. 

‘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.

‘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.’

The last recorded rabies case in the UK was in 2012. In that instance, the individual was bitten by a dog in South Asia. 

A map shows the risk of rabies in different countries, with darker green areas higher risk and light green lower risk. Morocco, in the north east of Africa, south of Spain, is high risk

What is rabies and what are its symptoms? 

Rabies is a serious viral infection that affects the brain and central nervous system.  

The virus is transmitted to humans through animal bites, and can’t spread through physical contact or airborne means in the way that other infections can.

This means it does not spread from human to human. Despite around 59,000 cases of rabies globally each year, there has yet to be a single confirmed case of human-to-human transmission.

Initial symptoms can include anxiety, headaches and fever. As the disease progresses, there may be hallucinations and respiratory failure. 

Spasms of the muscles used for swallowing make it difficult for the patient to drink. The incubation period between being infected and showing symptoms is between 3 and 12 weeks, depending on the site of the initial infection.

Once symptoms have developed, rabies is almost always fatal. 

Rabies can change the behaviour of animals, making them more likely to bite people

Source: PHE 


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