AUTHORITIES in Castile-La Mancha have declared a state of high alert after a rabid pit bull terrier attacked five people in Toledo.
The dog bit four children and an adult in the central Spanish city, marking the first recorded case of the disease on the Iberian Peninsula in nearly four decades.
It is thought the owner of the pit bull cross doctored veterinary records for the animal after bringing it into Spain from Morocco earlier this year.
He has since been arrested for several counts of criminal negligence resulting in injury and for failing to have the correct licence for a dangerous dog breed.
The dog was captured following the attacks and immediately destroyed.
Spain had previously been a rabies-free country since 1978, but the North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla have registered occasional incidents in recent years.
Three of the victims, aged six, 12 and 17 were discharged from hospital following rabies inoculations.
But a two-year-old, who suffered bite wounds to the face, was kept in for further treatment.
For people bitten by a rabid animal, there is roughly 24 hours where treatment with an antibody can prevent the virus entering the nervous system.
It is thought that some 60,000 dogs in 56 villages are currently at risk of rabies.
The regional government has ordered all cats, dogs and ferrets in the danger zone to be vaccinated against the disease within 15 days.
“We have also forbidden dogs to be allowed off the lead in public spaces until the danger has passed,” said Tirso Yuste, head of the regional agriculture department.
UK travellers have been advised to avoid contact with wild and domestic animals in high-risk areas, including a 20km radius around the city of Toledo.
Dr Hilary Kirkbride, a rabies expert at Public Health England, said: “If visitors are bitten, scratched, or licked by a wild or domestic animal they should was the wound thoroughly with soap and water and urgently seek medical advice either in Spain, or on their return from their GP or NHS 111.”