'Rabies' patient in hospital
A case of suspected rabies is being investigated in Northern Ireland, it was revealed today.
The patient was taken ill after returning from overseas in an area associated with the infection and may have been bitten there.
Initial tests on the patient proved positive and further tests are being carried out to confirm if the diagnosis definite.
There is no treatment for the infection which is always fatal, according to the medical authorities.
Rabies is extremely rare in the UK - there have only been 23 cases since 1946, the last in 2005, and all infections were acquired abroad - the last case of human rabies involving a dog bite suffered in the UK was more than a century ago in 1902.
The Eastern Health and Social Services Board in Belfast is leading a multi-agency investigation into what it said was "a highly likely case of human rabies".
The patient was initially treated in the Ulster Hospital at Dundonald on the outskirts of Belfast and is now in the Royal Victoria Hospital in the city.
The board insisted the risk to the wider community was negligible - there was no documented case of human to human transmission of rabies anywhere in the world.
It added that the person "poses no risk to other patients or to visitors. Both hospitals are functioning normally and there is no risk to the provision of their services.
"All necessary steps on infection control are in place for the protection of staff."
Rabies is a notifiable disease in Northern Ireland and there have been no notifications of rabies in humans there since 1938.
The board and its partner agencies are taking national expert advice from the Health Protection Agency and the Veterinary Laboratories Agency.
It added: "The board and its partner agencies are satisfied that all necessary steps to protect public health are in place and again stress that any risk to the community is negligible."
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