A charity worker described yesterday how she became one of only a handful of people to have been bitten by a rabid dog in this country in the past 100 years.
Kim Cooling, whose Animal SOS charity rescues dogs from Sri Lanka, said the puppy bit her lightly on the wrist, hand and chin as she visited it in a quarantine centre in Chingford, Essex. She added that the dog had been vaccinated before leaving Sri Lanka and had a health certificate.
Two workers at the centre where the animal was a week into its six-month quarantine period were also treated for the potentially lethal virus after receiving "playful nips".
Mrs Cooling said the puppy "just snapped at me, and she was snapping at the other pups. She was not her usual sweet self." She added that the infected dog initially showed no signs of illness, but that its demeanour changed on Wednesday and its condition went downhill over the next two days.
Vets said the dog – and four other Sri Lankan puppies – had been kept in isolation at the kennels because of concerns about their health. The dog died on Friday and tests confirmed rabies a few hours later. The other four puppies – all about eight weeks old – have been put down and their brains are being tested for the disease.
Health officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said that a further four dogs released earlier from the quarantine centre had been traced and were being monitored.
Managers at the quarantine kennels say the two members of staff bitten by the dog were also vaccinated and were showing no signs of ill health.
Jeremy Robinson, general manager of the kennels and the adjoining veterinary practice, said he was confident that no other dogs or cats had been infected.
Vets had concerns about the five pups when they arrived on 17 April, so the animals had been kept isolated, although rabies was not initially suspected, Mr Robinson said.
A Defra spokesman said that the workers at the quarantine centre would routinely have been vaccinated against rabies.
The last death from rabies in the UK was in 1902 and the last case in 1990, also at a quarantine centre. In 2002 a man died in Scotland from the rare strain of the virus that infects bats in northern Europe.
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