Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand and Manatu Hauora – Ministry of Health have confirmed New Zealand has had its first case of rabies.

Sadly, the overseas traveller died from the disease last week, but this person posed no health risk to any member of the public while in New Zealand.

Director of Public Health Dr Nick Jones said person to person transmission of rabies is extremely rare, almost unknown, so there is no risk to members of the public.

The disease was contracted overseas and then the person was diagnosed in New Zealand.

The person was notified as having suspected rabies when first admitted to hospital in early March so was managed with full infection control measures while at Auckland City Hospital and at Whangarei Hospital where they were first diagnosed.

Rabies is usually caught from the saliva of an infected animal when a person is bitten. If the person does not seek treatment between being bitten and the development of symptoms, then rabies is usually fatal.

The National Public Health Service will not be releasing any further details of the case to protect their identity.

Laboratory results confirmed this is the first case of rabies in New Zealand. New Zealand does not have rabies in its animal or human populations, and this case does not change our rabies-free status.

“Travellers should be aware, however, that there are thousands of rabies cases reported in humans around the world each year, including a number of countries in our part of the world,” Dr Jones says.

Rabies vaccination is recommended for New Zealanders travelling to countries where rabies is common, especially if travelling to rural areas, likely to be in contact with animals or if staying for longer than a month.

All travellers should avoid contact with animals in countries with rabies, especially dogs.

If you are bitten by an animal where there is rabies, you should seek treatment as soon as possible.

The Ministry of Health’s website has further information