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Gulfnews: Patient's death is first rabies fatality in UAE in 10 years

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  • Gulfnews: Patient's death is first rabies fatality in UAE in 10 years

    Gulfnews: Patient's death is first rabies fatality in UAE in 10 years
    Patient's death is first rabies fatality in UAE in 10 years

    By Nina Muslim, Staff Reporter
    Published: February 17, 2009, 23:56

    A man being treated for rabies at a local hospital died on Monday, the first such death in the UAE in a decade.

    Gulf News reported the labourer from India was admitted to Al Baraha Hospital on February 8 after he started showing symptoms.

    Rabies is transmitted through saliva and blood from an infected animal. The most common method of transmission is through bites and globally, more than 90 per cent of infections come from bites from rabid dogs.

    Dr Ali Al Marzouqi, director of public health at the Department of Health and Medical Services, told Gulf News it was the first rabies case in the UAE in a decade.

    "The last case was 10 or more years ago. I have been in the public health sector for nine years and this is the first case we've got," he said.

    Dr Ali Shakar, director-general at the Ministry of Health, told Gulf News the man's hand was bitten six months ago, prior to his arrival in the UAE.

    "If he had sought treatment immediately after the bite, or even after he arrived in the UAE, maybe he would have been okay," he said.

    Treatment for rabies involves cleaning and disinfecting the wound, and giving the victim a post-exposure vaccination as soon as possible. Rabies is almost always fatal when symptoms show up.

    Dr Shakar said there was no need to vaccinate anyone as the man's contacts in the UAE have not shown signs of exposure to the virus. Exposure refers to a case where infected saliva enters an open wound.

    "The main thing is this is not a public health scare so there is no need to panic. It can happen anytime, anywhere in the world," he said. "It doesn't transfer like other [infectious] diseases. It's not bird flu," he added.

    Avian flu is transmitted through direct contact with infected birds or their droppings.

    He also said the body would be buried according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) procedures, which dictates the immediate burial or cremation of the body.

    No special containers are required for the body, although embalming is discouraged.

    Despite the case, health authorities are unlikely to require incoming residents and workers to be screened for rabies.

    "We have other more important diseases to watch out for like HIV, tuberculosis and sexually-transmitted diseases, which are more infectious," Dr Marzouqi said.

    "And if someone gets rabies here, so what? Transmission is rare and we have vaccines to treat people after they are bitten," he said.

    Facts: 55,000 victims a year
    Rabies is a zoonotic disease that kills 55,000 people a year worldwide, mostly in rural areas in Asia and Africa.
    Human symptoms: It first shows up with flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache and fatigue. Then it progresses to involve the respiratory, gastrointestinal and the central nervous system. It also leads to hydrophobia or fear of water, due to spasms in the throat. The patient develops hyperactivity, called furious rabies, or paralysis, called dumb rabies. Without intensive care, death occurs in the first seven days of illness.
    UAE regulations: Pets are required to be vaccinated. Rabies is a notifiable disease under the public health laws, requiring all sectors to report an encounter.
    - Nina Muslim, with inputs from WHO and US Centres for Disease Control
    <cite cite="">Gulfnews: Patient's death is first rabies fatality in UAE in 10 years</cite>