Rabies Patient Dies

A woman being treated for rabies at a London hospital after being bitten by a dog in South Asia, has died.

The woman, believed to be a grandmother in her 50s, was sent home from the A and E department at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford twice in four days, before she was finally diagnosed and admitted to the London Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

An investigation has been launched by Darent Valley into why she was initially turned away. A spokesman said: "The UK is rabies-free. If a patient does present at hospital with vague symptoms, a doctor is unlikely to consider rabies as a diagnosis unless the patient highlights wild animal contact in an at-risk country. The hospital responded to the information supplied by the patient at the time.

"We have launched an investigation into the circumstances around this lady's attendance at the emergency department and we are working closely with the Health Protection Agency (HPA).''

Rabies is usually transferred through saliva from the bite of an infected animal, with dogs being the most common transmitter of rabies to humans. There are no cases of it being passed by human-to-human contact.

More than 55,000 people are estimated to die from the disease every year, with most cases occurring in developing countries, particularly south and south-east Asia.