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French issue alert after first case of rabies in 12 years surfaces

France’s ministries of agriculture and health issued an alert Thursday, Oct. 31 after a kitten in the town of Argenteuil in Val d’Oise, which is on the outskirts of Paris, was found to have rabies. It was the first case of rabies confirmed in France since 2001.

The Pasteur Institute, which carried out testing on the kitten, confirmed the presence of rabies Thursday. The kitten, described as white, black and tan and about two months old, was discovered Oct.25 and died Oct. 28.

An epidemiological survey has been undertaken to identify and treat anyone who may have been in contact with the kitten between Oct. 8 and Oct. 28, which is the period when the kitten could have transmitted the disease.

Five people identified as having been in contact with the kitten have received preventative treatment at a rabies clinic but the French government has issued an alert that anyone who suspects they may have been bitten, scratched, or licked by the kitten should telephone 08 11 00 06 95 so they may receive emergency treatment.

An alert has also been issued to trace the owner of the kitten, as well as its mother and any other kittens that were part of the same litter. With France having been rabies-free since 2001, the French ministries of agriculture and health have concluded that the kitten, or its mother, was imported to France from a non-rabies free country, reports Le Monde.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) figures, an estimated 55,000 people worldwide are killed by rabies annually. Thanks to vaccination programs, France and a number of other European countries was declared rabies-free some years ago. The last non-imported case of rabies in the French countryside occurred in 1998, according to ANSES, the French agency for food, environmental and occupational health safety.

Since 1970, there have been just 20 cases of where rabies was transmitted to humans in France. In each case, infection was the result of contamination from outside France.

In any case of suspected rabies, speed is the key to effective treatment. Left untreated, mortality from rabies is 100 percent. The disease is transmissible for 15 days after the first symptoms become apparent in an infected animal. Provided treatment is administered promptly after first contact with an infected animal, and before the first symptoms appear in a human, then countering the disease is very effective.Sources:

Le Monde

ANSES

World Health Organization

French Ministry of Agriculture