Update on human rabies in a dog- and fox-rabies-free country.Med Mal Infect. 2014 Jul; 44(7):292-301.MM
Rabies is responsible for 50,000 deaths per year worldwide. Mainland France has been officially freed from rabies in non-flying animals since 2001.
We wanted to provide an update on the French situation, using published data, and describe possible options since official guidelines are lacking.
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) (early and careful cleaning and dressing of the wound, vaccination, and in case of high-risk exposure, injection of specific anti-rabies immunoglobulins) is known to be efficient except in rare cases. It is recommended after grade II contact (+specific immunoglobulins in immunodepressed patients), or grade III contact (vaccination+immunoglobulins).
Mainland France being rabies-free, 3 options may be considered in case of bite by a dog or a cat that cannot be monitored in France: (a) consider the risk of rabies as null, so no PEP should be administrated, whatever the severity of bites; (b) consider there is a weak but lethal risk, so the international recommendations should be applied, using immunoglobulins in some cases; (c) consider that the risk is extremely low but cannot be excluded, and that the patient should be vaccinated to be protected, but without adding immunoglobulins (whether in case of grade II or III bites).
There are no national guidelines for rabies in France, and so the physician managing the patient is the one who will decide to treat or not.