HC Deb 27 May 1976 vol 912 cc338-9W
Mr. Woof

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement about existing medical knowledge of the treatment of rabies.

Dr. Owen

The prophylactic treatment of persons exposed to the risk of infection through the bite or scratch of a rabid animal consists in the prompt treatment of the wound and the administration of rabies vaccine and antiserum or immunoglobulin as indicated. The purpose of vaccine prophylaxis is to induce an antibody response as soon as possible in the hope that this may prevent the disease from developing.

The WHO Expert Committee on rabies in its sixth report (1973) expressed the conviction that the combined administration of antirabies serum and vaccine together with the local treatment of the wound, provides the best possible prophylaxis of rabies in an exposed person. Supplies of vaccine, antisera and immunoglobulin and advice on their use are available to doctors from certain laboratories of the Public Health Laboratory Service (Colindale (London), Liverpool, Newcastle and Cardiff).

If clinical disease develops in a patient the prognosis remains grave. However, in the past few years there have been reports of the prolonged survival of patients with proved disease, and the complete recovery of one patient with probable rabies in the United States of America. These successes were attributed to the treatment of respiratory, circulatory and other complications by intensive medical care. The WHO Expert Committee on Rabies (1973) felt that modern means of treatment provide some hopes of recovery and, in its report, listed guidelines for the treatment of confirmed rabies in man. Even so, the outcome in established cases of rabies is at present usually fatal, which must give added force to the efforts to prevent the importation of animal rabies into these islands.