Rabies

Rabies illustration

What is rabies?

Lethal bug which infects travellers who are bitten or scratched by an infected animal. Rabies is deadly unless it’s treated straight away, so travellers in high-risk countries should get help immediately if they are bitten or scratched.

Rabies illustration
Disease video poster image

Risk areas for Rabies

Map of risk areas for Rabies
  • Key fact

    Once symptoms are present, rabies is almost always fatal.1 So prevention and early treatment are crucial.

  • How do you get rabies?

    Being bitten or scratched by infected animals such as dogs (which account for 99% of human cases), bats or foxes.3 The rabies virus is found in saliva.

  • Which countries are affected by rabies?

    Rabies occurs in over 100 countries in the world but some countries, particularly in rural areas of Africa and Asia, are high-risk areas (see map).2

  • What are the symptoms of rabies?

    The initial symptoms can include pain and tingling/numbness around the site of the wound, nausea, vomiting, and even sometimes a fear of water (hydrophobia).3 As it spreads through the brain, it can cause hyperactivity, changes in consciousness and paralysis.

    In the majority of cases, it usually takes 1-3 months before symptoms to start to show, although this has been shown to take up to 1 year. 3

  • How serious is rabies?

    By the time symptoms develop, few people survive.3

  • Can I prevent getting rabies?

    You can take the following precautions to help reduce your risk of infection:

    • Visit your nearest convenient pharmacy or specialist travel health clinic for a risk assessment before your trip
    • Avoid contact with animals that may bite4
    • If you are bitten or scratched, the wound should be cleaned thoroughly with plenty of soap and water, and treated with a disinfectant containing iodine or another substance that kills viruses.4 Seek medical help immediately.

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References
  1. Travel Health Pro. Diseases in brief. Rabies. Available online: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/disease/148/rabies (Last accessed April 2019)
  2. World Health Organization. Distribution of risk levels for humans contacting rabies, worldwide. 2013. Available online: https://www.who.int/rabies/Global_distribution_risk_humans_contracting_rabies_2013.png?ua=1 (Last accessed April 2019)
  3. World Health Organization. Weekly Epidemiological Record. WHO Position Paper on Rabies. April 2018. Available online: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272371/WER9316.pdf?ua=1 (Last accessed April 2019)
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Book 2018. Chapter 3 Infectious Diseases Related to Travel. Rabies. May 2017. Available online: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/rabies (Last accessed April 2019)

UK-BOTB-1900038 June 2019