British woman who contracted rabies after being bitten by dog during Asian holiday dies of disease
| UPDATED: 06:30 GMT, 25 May 2012
Fatal: The woman who died was being treated at London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases (pictured)
A spokesman for the hospital said: ‘We regret to announce that a patient being treated for rabies by the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and colleagues at University College Hospital died over the weekend.
‘The patient’s family have kindly requested for the media to respect their privacy during this very difficult time and we will not be releasing any further details, nor will the family be making any statements. Our sincere condolences go out to them.’
The woman is believed to have caught the illness from a puppy while visiting India with her husband.
Specialist treatment: The patient had been treated in an isolation room at University College Hospital, London
Last week it emerged that she had been sent away by NHS staff on three separate occasions who had failed to spot the illness.
She first visited her GP two weeks ago complaining of sickness.
Two days later she went to the A&E unit at Darent Valley hospital in Dartford, Kent – where she is believed to have been visiting relatives or friends – only to be sent home again. She returned the next day but the hospital refused to admit her, believing she was suffering from a mild illness.
Investigation: The woman was reportedly turned away twice from the Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent
It was only when she visited her GP again four days after the first appointment that she was finally referred to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, South-East London, with suspected rabies.
The hospital sent her on to UCLH which has specialists in certain rare illnesses.
Professor Tom Solomon, of the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool, said the mortality rate of rabies was ‘almost 100 per cent’.
‘Almost everyone who gets bitten but doesn’t seek help will die within a few weeks of the symptoms starting to show,’ he said.
Deadly: The grandmother's illness is the first case of rabies in England in almost seven years. The last occurred in July 2005 when a woman died after contracting it from a dog bite during a holiday in the Indian resort of Goa, pictured
Rare: Naturalist David McRae (pictured) became the first person in Britain to die of the disease for 100 years after he was bitten on the hand by a rabid bat in 2002
Killer: Rabies viruses showing their characteristic bullet shape. The disease has an extremely low survival rate once symptoms have developed
Vaccination programme: Although all but eradicated in the UK rabies is still common in developing countries
A DEADLY VIRAL INFECTION WHICH KILLS ABOUT 55,000 PEOPLE EACH YEAR
Lethal: There are about 55,000 cases of rabies worldwide each year. Half of all rabies cases occur in India, the Taj Mahal is pictured
Rabies is a viral infection which targets the nervous system and the brain.
It is only spread by infected animals to humans, most often through the animal biting or scratching the person.
It can also be spread by an animal's saliva being in contact with a graze or cut on a human's skin.
The majority of rabies cases result from being bitten by an infected dog.
The symptoms of the illness include high temperatures, numbness at the area where the bite occurred and hallucinations.
Some victims also have hydrophobia, which is a fear of water.
There are about 55,000 cases of rabies worldwide each year with most cases occurring in Africa and Asia.
But half of all rabies cases occur in India.
The grandmother's illness is the first case of rabies in England in almost seven years.
The last occurred in July 2005 when a woman from Manchester died after contracting it from a dog bite during a holiday in the Indian resort of Goa.
Most cases of rabies in the UK occur from people infected abroad or from quarantined animals.
Since 1946, 24 people have died who have been infected with rabies abroad. A total of four of these have occurred since 2000.
In 2003, it was discovered that UK bats may be carrying a rabies-like virus.
A bat handler died after contracting the virus in Scotland.