Rise of Rabies? Woman Bitten By Dog in India Dies in London

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

A British woman, believed to be a grandmother in her 50s, died over the weekend while under treatment at London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases for rabies.  She had contracted the deadly disease while on vacation in Asia, where she was bitten by a puppy.

Doctors stated they were delayed in accurately diagnosis her condition because the victim did not disclose that she had been visiting India and had suffered a dog bite, according to the Daily Mail.

Four days later, on May 25, during her second visit to University College Hospital, she admitted she had been bitten by the dog, and rabies infection was then suspected. A hospital source told the Daily Mail that, if they had been promptly informed of her trip, the whole approach to treatment would have been different.  However, it was still not likely she would have survived.

Dr Ron Behrens, travel medicine expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the Mail that the prognosis was 'bleak' for people infected with rabies encephalitis, with only one or two cases known to have survived. Once the symptoms of rabies develop – including sickness, aggression and hallucinations – the virus has spread to the brain and is nearly always fatal.

Professor Tom Solomon of the Institute of Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool agreed that the mortality rate is almost 100 per cent in everyone who is bitten but doesn’t seek help immediately. They will die within a few weeks of the symptoms starting to show, he said.

Responding to a report that Darent Valley Hospital had sent the woman home when she first went there and sought medical assistance for “a mild illness,” a spokesman for the hospital said: “The UK is rabies-free…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,” he told the Daily Mail.

Although there are no cases of rabies from human-to-human contact, the five members of staff that came into close contact with the patient are reportedly being vaccinated as a precautionary measure.


The last report of rabies in England was seven years ago, in July 2005, when a woman died after contracting it from a dog bite during a holiday in the Indian resort of Goa.

However, on Friday, May 25, the Health Protection Agency announced that  a second possible  case of rabies in England is being investigated and treated. The patient is a British woman  from Leeds, a city in West Yorkshire. She had also reportedly been bitten by a dog while traveling abroad.

 HPA officials have stated that there are absolutely no links to the case in London, according to the Daily Mail.



1) It is estimated the over 55,000 humans die from rabies every year, with most cases occurring in Africa and South and South-East Asia.

2) About one-half of all rabies cases originate from or occur in India.

3) Rabies is usually transferred through saliva from the bite of an infected animal, with dogs and bats being the most common transmitter of rabies to humans.

4) There are an increasing number of reports of rabies being contracted by feral cat bites or from other wildlife that had been in contact with wild/feral cats.

5) Since 1946,  twenty-four people have died in Britain after being infected with rabies abroad. Four of these have occurred since 2000. 

Read also:  Animal Lovers Blamed for Dog Attacks in India