Rabies: Spread and Vaccination
WHAT IS RABIES ?
Rabies is a fatal viral disease transmitted through the saliva of infected animals. It may affect all mammals. Humans usually get infected through the bites or scratches of infected dogs and cats. Other animals, such as bats, foxes, raccoons and mongooses, are sometimes involved in human rabies infections. It is important to note that the lick of a recent wound by an infected animal can also result in the transmission of the virus to humans.
The rabies virus affects the central nervous system of its victims. Once the first symptoms of the disease appear, there is no effective treatment and death is usually inevitable.
WHAT IS THE RISK FOR TRAVELERS ?
Rabies occurs worldwide, except in Antarctica. Some areas are particularly affected by rabies, like Africa, Asia, Central America and South America. In these regions, access to preventive treatments can be limited. All the international travelers may be at risk for rabies. But this risk is significantly increased among the persons who are potentially in contact with wild or domestic animals and who are spending a lot of time outdoors. Children are also exposed to a high risk of being infected with rabies, as they are more likely to play with animals and to be severely bitten on their head and on their neck.
Getting Your Rabies Vaccine
If you are going to a country at high risk for rabies, you should consider pre-exposure vaccination against the infection, especially if you intend to stay in the country for a long period. You must see a doctor at least six weeks before your departure, he will help you to know if you should be vaccinated against rabies. If you are likely to be in frequent contact with animals while traveling, notably with dogs, cats and bats, you must complete the pre-exposure vaccination (three shots) before you leave your home country. Be aware that even if you are vaccinated against rabies, you still have to follow a post-exposure treatment if you are bitten or scratched by an animal.
Before your departure, you should make sure that you are fully covered by a good health insurance including evacuation and repatriation.
While traveling, you must take some precautions. Avoid contact with dogs and with animals in general, whether they are wild or domestic. Don’t approach them and don’t try to touch them. Supervise children at all time, especially if there are dogs and cats around. If you travel with your pets, prevent them from playing with local animals. Never bring home an animal coming from another country. Even if it doesn’t show any sign of rabies, it may be infected.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE BITTEN BY AN ANIMAL ?
If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, immediately wash the wound with clean water and soap. See a doctor very rapidly, even if you don’t feel any pain or if the wound seems benign. The doctor will decide if you need a post-exposure treatment against rabies.
We make every effort to ensure that the information posted on our website is up to date and accurate according to the latest public health recommendations; however, it is impossible for us to make changes on a daily basis.
For the most current travel health recommendations, please call our clinic as make an appointment with one of our travel health professionals.