Four Northern Ireland holidaymakers have been put on anti-rabies treatment after they were bitten by animals while on holiday in Turkey.
The Public Health Agency has issued warnings to avoid animal bites after holidaymakers were put on a course of anti-rabies injections.
It is impossible to tell whether a stray animal could carry the disease as it may appear well, the PHA said. Over the past month four people were put on anti-rabies treatments as a precautionary measure but no cases of the full-blown disease have developed.
Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in communicable disease control with the PHA, said: “In the past few weeks we have had several people returning from Turkey who have been bitten by animals and have had to be given anti-rabies treatment. This treatment is not pleasant as it consists of a series of injections. However, it is essential as rabies is always fatal and once it starts to develop it is too late to start treatment.”
Rabies is spread through animal saliva, usually through a bite — but it can also be spread through a scratch or by an animal licking a cut or wound, or saliva getting into the eyes, mouth or nose.
The disease cannot be transmitted through intact skin. It is commonly spread by dogs but can be spread by other mammals including cats and monkeys. Last year Belfast woman Lisa McMurray lost her fight for life after she contracted what was thought to have been the first case of rabies recorded in Northern Ireland in 70 years.
She spent weeks in the intensive care unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital after falling ill on her return from a visit abroad. It is believed she may have contracted the virus at an animal sanctuary.