Hospital inquiry into rabies case
An investigation has been launched into how a woman suffering from rabies was reportedly turned away from a hospital emergency department.
The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has confirmed a case of the potentially fatal disease in a patient who had been bitten by a dog in South Asia.
The woman, believed to be a grandmother in her 50s, was reportedly turned away twice by doctors at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent, before she was finally diagnosed.
She is now being treated at London's Hospital for Tropical Diseases, which has reassured patients, visitors and staff there is no risk to them as a result of the case.
The HPA has also stressed there is no risk to the public and said all family members and healthcare staff who have had contact with the patient have been assessed and offered a vaccination.
A spokesman for Darent Valley Hospital said an investigation was under way into the lady's attendance at its emergency department.
He said: "The UK is rabies free. If a patient does present at hospital with vague symptoms, 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.
"Although there are no cases of rabies being passed through human-to-human contact, the five members of staff that came into close contact with the patient are being vaccinated as a precautionary measure.
"We have launched an investigation into the circumstances around this lady's attendance at the emergency department and we are working closely with the Health Protection Agency."
Rabies is usually transferred through saliva from the bite of an infected animal, with dogs being the most common transmitter of rabies to humans. More than 55,000 people are estimated to die from the disease every year, with most cases occurring in developing countries, particularly South and South-East Asia.