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Rabies victim ‘told he didn’t have disease despite itching and trembling’

The family of a man who died from rabies believe there were multiple potential chances missed to treat his illness, an inquest hearing was told.

Omar Zouhri was holidaying in Morocco when he was bitten on his finger by a rabid cat.

But he was told by hospital staff he was "unlikely to have rabies" just days before his death, coroner Darren Salter told the hearing.

Mr Zouhri had been transferred between hospitals in Morocco while holidaying there in August last year.

Fears grew among his family when he was advised to seek anti-rabies medication by a boy who was bitten by the same cat, the coroner said.

The coroner told the hearing that Mr Zouhri, a full-time carer, and his wife Chadia were later told the boy had died.

They then sought urgent treatment from his GP before attending A&E department at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire.

Mr Zhouri had been suffering pain, itching and partial paralysis in his hand which had spread to his shoulder but he was told a rabies diagnosis was unlikely.

However, coroner Mr Salter told an pre-inquest review that the 58-year-old was referred to the the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxfordshire, where he died just days later, on November 4.

Mr Salter said the full hearing into his death was being adjourned as the family had raised concerns regarding the treatment at Moroccan hospitals, Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Mr Zouhri’s GP and a 111 operator, as Mr Zouhri’s condition steadily deteriorated.

At a previous opening of the inquest into his death, Mr Salter had said medical professionals at Stoke Mandeville suspected rabies but failed to diagnose it after tests for the disease proved negative, despite his symptoms and his worsening condition.

Mr Zouhri was transferred to the Infectious Diseases Department at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford on November 1.

The carer, from Prebendal Avenue, Aylesbury, died at the hospital on November 4.

However, the coroner told the opening that experts at the Infectious Diseases Department (IDD) were unable to confirm his condition until after his death, as his symptoms were so severe.

Addressing the hearing yesterday at Oxford Coroner’s Court, Mr Salter gave the family’s estimated timeline of events and outlined their criticisms of Mr Zouhri’s care.

He said: "There is a timeline of events supplied by the family subject to investigation. On August 31, Mr Zouhri was bitten on the finger by a cat in Morocco.

"He immediately applied an anti-bacterial spray to the wound before going to a hospital in Meknes.

"He was then taken to Sied Hospital to have a post-exposure rabies hospital vaccine. It was believed to be a post-exposure rabies hospital, but it didn’t have the treatment either.

"Mr Zouhri went to a pharmacy for an injection, recommended by a boy who had been bitten by the same cat, and went to a police station to complain the hospital was not able to help.

"On September 1 he went to a GP and bought antibiotics and returned to the UK," said Mr Salter.

"They were later informed the boy had died and on October 5, Mrs Zouhri phoned a GP to explain and on October 8 it is told there was further contact with their GP who wanted him to have injections and he began anti-rabies injections.

"On October 28 Mr Zouhri woke up at 6am with pain and itching in his finger. Mrs Zouhri called 111 and he was referred to Bucks Urgent Care who said he was unlikely to have rabies.

"On October 29 he again awoke with pain in his finger to his shoulder and attended the GP again and on October 30 he was in extreme pain. He called 111 and was advised to seek medical treatment within the hour.

"It doesn’t appear that treatment was sought but on October 31 he was taken to A&E at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and has significantly deteriorated.

"On November 1 he was transferred to John Radcliffe Hospital and on November 4 he sadly passed away.

"The concern on the part of the family was there were opportunities missed for treatment early and those concerns are in relation to Moroccan hospitals and Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the GP, 111 service operators by South Central Ambulance Service – but not, it seems, with the John Radcliffe Hospital but events prior to then."

The full inquest was expected to last between three and four hours and adjourned by Mr Salter until later in the year with no date fixed.

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