Fourth travel-related rabies case reported in the EU in 2019

News story

Within one week, Latvia, Spain and Italy each notified a case of imported rabies. Earlier in the year, Norway had reported an additional travel-related case. Travellers to countries where rabies is enzootic should follow basic preventive measures. This includes avoiding contact with wild animals, particularly mammals, which could trigger an animal bite.

According to ECDC records, four cases of imported rabies have been notified in the EU/EEA this year. In May, Norway confirmed one rabies-related death following infection in the Philippines. In December, one case was reported in Latvia (returning from India), another one in Spain following infection in Morocco and Italian authorities confirmed the death of a traveller who was bitten by a dog while staying in Tanzania.

In Europe, human rabies is a very rare vaccine-preventable zoonosis, which spreads from infected animals to humans. During the last decade, very few cases of locally acquired rabies were reported in the EU/EEA and in in recent years, all notified rabies cases resulted from exposure outside of the EU/EEA. Rabies occurs in more than 150 countries which highlights the need for adequate travel advice and rapid post-exposure prophylaxis after a scratch or bite from a potential rabid animal.

The risk of rabies infection for travellers visiting rabies-enzootic areas is considered very low as long as basic preventive measures are followed. These include avoiding contact with wild and domestic mammals, including pets.

Travellers or professionals with activities in remote areas where rabies is enzootic might have a higher risk of being scratched or bitten by rabid animals. They should seek an individual assessment on necessary pre-exposure prophylaxis by a healthcare provider before travelling. People who have been bitten or scratched by a suspected rabid dog, cat, bat or other mammal, should immediately clean the wound thoroughly with e.g. water and soap, and look for medical care as post-exposure prophylaxis has to be administered as soon as possible after exposure to the virus.