The Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the UK has confirmed that a patient is undergoing treatment for rabies in a London hospital.
It is thought the patient, reported to be a female in her 50s, contracted the disease after being bitten by a dog in South Asia.
She is currently being treated at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, which is based at the University College Hospital.
It is the first case of rabies in the UK since 2008 and only the fourth since the year 2000, all of which were caused from bites from foreign dogs.
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Despite the case, health authorities in England are adamant that there is no risk to the public.
A spokesperson for the Hospital for Tropical Diseases said: “We would like to reassure our patients, visitors and staff there is no risk to them as a result of this case.”
Meanwhile the Director of the HPA for London, Dr Brian McCloskey, added: “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, a handful of people – thought to be around 20 – have been offered a vaccination after coming into contact with the patient.
Dr Brian McCloskey explained: “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.”
Rabies is most commonly carried in dogs, particularly those in the South and South East regions of Asia.
Nevertheless, in 2003, after a bat handler died from a rabies-like illness, it was suggested that nocturnal animals carry a similar disease.
Across the world, approximately 55,000 people die every year after contracting rabies.
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