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Rabies death in Northern Ireland sparks Health Protection Agency investigation

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The Health Protection Agency has launched an investigation following the death of a young woman from rabies in Northern Ireland last week.

Officials from the agency are attempting to trace volunteers who have worked at the Riverside Wildlife Rehabilitation and Environmental Education Centre in Limpopo, South Africa.

The woman, who died last week, is thought to have acquired rabies following a bite from a dog while working at the animal sanctuary in December 2006.

The centre has written to all those who volunteered there since July 2006 as a precaution and it is estimated that around 230 UK citizens have worked there since that date.

Volunteers are being advised that if they have been bitten or scratched by a dog or mongoose within the centre or surrounding area, they should seek medical advice.

Rabies vaccine is extremely effective at preventing the disease even if it is given some time after an exposure.

Dr David Brown, HPA rabies expert, said: ‘This is a tragic event and is a very real example of the need to get health advice before you travel to countries where rabies is common or if you know you will be working with animals.

‘Talk to your doctor or nurse about whether or not a rabies vaccine is appropriate.’

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