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Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Rabies (Canine) (Human Exposure) in French Guiana

04 Sep 2015

On 31 August 2015, the Pasteur Institute in Paris confirmed rabies virus infection is a 6-month old puppy in Cayenne, French Guiana. Cayenne is the capital of French Guiana, an overseas department of France on the northeast coast of South America.

The puppy became unwell on 20 August and was hospitalised on 21 August 2015, when his condition deteriorated and he became aggressive and sufferred convulsions. An investigation began when the puppy died and rabies was suspected. Laboratory tests isolated Lyssavirus from the puppy, the virus associated with bat rabies. Although the source of infection has not been confirmed, contact with bats is thought most likely. The puppy is known to have eaten dead animals in the garden on several occassions.

The investigation thus far has identified 12 human contacts of the puppy who have attended for post-exposure rabies prophylaxis. No animal contacts have been identified thus far.

According to the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE), rabies has not been reported in French Guiana in domestic animals since 2003, and in wildlife since October 2009.

Advice for Travellers

WHO classifies French Guiana as a low risk country for rabies.

There is a low risk of rabies in terrestrial animals in this country, however, bat rabies is present. Travellers are advised to avoid contact with animals (particularly wild animals) and bats, and to have any bite assessed immediately to ascertain if further action is required.