Rabies alert for tourists in France


British tourists are being urged to be on their guard after a case of rabies was confirmed in France.

Authorities there have identified four potential areas where people may have been exposed to rabies, which was confirmed in a dog on February 26.

The UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) said the risk of rabies is “ongoing” in these regions although the risk to humans is low.

The areas of risk are Hautes-Pyrenees in the south of France (Tarbes city and surroundings), from October 25, 2007, onwards; Gers in the south west of France (Auch city and surroundings), from November 1 onwards; Seine-et-Marne in the north of France, from December 15 onwards and Calvados in the north west of France (Lisieux city and Thury Harcourt village and surroundings), from December 15 onwards.

A HPA statement said: “The risk to humans from this incident is considered low, nonetheless the HPA is advising anyone who has sustained a dog bite while travelling or staying in the regions of France during the dates detailed above should seek prompt medical advice from their GP or NHS Direct.

“GPs, A&Es and other health care professionals are asked to be vigilant in assessing people who report dog bites which occurred in the affected French regions during the periods of risk.

“Doctors are also asked to check records to review and reassess any cases who have previously presented with dog bites after travelling to the affected areas, who may have been reassured that there was no risk of rabies in France.”

Dr David Brown, a rabies expert at the HPA, added: “Rabies is an acute viral infection but one that is extremely rare in the UK and other parts of Europe.

“The risk to UK travellers is considered low; nonetheless we are advising anyone who has had significant contact with dogs such as having been bitten, scratched or licked around the eyes, mouth or on an open wound, during a stay in the affected French regions, to seek prompt medical advice. Prompt post exposure treatment following a bite is effective in preventing rabies.”

There have been no human cases of rabies reported in France as a result of the animal case.