PARIS, April 3 (Reuters) - A man died on Thursday in a Paris hospital after contracting rabies in Mali, the Health Ministry said in a statement, in the first recorded death of a human from rabies in France in more than 10 years.
The rabies virus, which is carried in the saliva of infected animals, is generally spread when an animal bites or comes in close contact with a human or another animal. Transmission between humans is extremely rare, although it has happened through organ transplants and bites.
"Although there does not appear to have been any direct human to human transmission, the (hospital) personnel and close family have been ... taken to an anti-rabies centre to see whether they need to be vaccinated," the statement said.
The ministry, which gave no personal details of the man, said he had been diagnosed with the disease on April 2.
Rabies was officially eradicated from France in 2001. The last person to die after contracting the disease in France was recorded in 1924, although there have been about 20 cases of people bringing the illness with them from overseas since 1970, the ministry said.
The last recorded death in France was a three-year old girl in 2003 after she contracted the disease in Gabon.
Africa is home to nearly half the 55,000 people around the world who die each year from rabies, according to experts.
Vaccination of humans, as well as dogs and domestic pets, is the only way to prevent the spread of the disease. (Reporting by John Irish and Gerard Bon; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)