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Indian-origin woman dies of rabies in Britain

November 29, 2012 21:50 IST

An Indian-origin British woman has died of rabies after returning from India where she was bitten by a dog, becoming the first person in the United Kingdom to die due to the disease in seven years.

The woman, identified as 58-year-old Sharanjit Ubhi, had been undergoing treatment in an isolation unit at University College Hospital in London where she died from brain and heart failure on May 27, the Mirror news reported.

According to the paper, her family told a coroner that she was bitten by her brother's puppy in India in March and that the bite was so small she did not even think to get herself checked by a doctor at the time and it was not until she returned to her home in Dartford, Kent that she developed symptoms- three months after her trip.

She went to Darent Valley Hospital twice in May complaining of a pain in her right arm but did not mention the bite and was sent home with painkillers after being classed as a 'minor case', it said.

It was only when she went to her General practitioner, who has seen a case of rabies before, that he suspected she might have contracted the rare illness.

The pathologist who carried out her post-mortem said it was the most severe infection in the 10 cases of rabies he had seen in his career, a British news website reported.

"This was not a natural cause of death. It is quite clear this death resulted from an untoward incident, namely an injury by a dog," said Coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe at St Pancras Coroners court.

Ubhi's son Gurpreet told the inquest, "It's a tragedy what's happened to our family, but if this can highlight to Britons travelling abroad the importance of being properly vaccinated maybe something good can come out of this."

A Darent Valley Hospital spokeswoman said, "We offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of this poor lady. 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 animal contact in an at-risk country. The hospital responded to the information supplied by the patient at the time".