Once symptoms are present, rabies is almost always fatal.1 So prevention and early treatment are crucial.
Risk areas for Rabies
Being bitten or scratched by infected animals such as dogs (which account for 99% of human cases), bats or foxes. The rabies virus is found in saliva.3
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
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
By the time symptoms develop, few people survive.3
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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* This list is not exhaustive and other travel health providers are available.
- Travel Health Pro. Diseases in brief. Rabies. Available online: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/disease/148/rabies (Last accessed May 2023)
- World Health Organization. Rabies, countries or areas at risk. 2013. Available online: https://www.who.int/rabies/Global_distribution_risk_humans_contracting_rabies_2013.png?ua=1 (Last accessed May 2023)
- 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 May 2023)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Book 2024. Section 5 Travel-Associated Infections & Diseases. Rabies. May 2023. Available online: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2024/infections-diseases/rabies (Last accessed May 2023)
UK-BOTB-2100016 (v2.0) May 2023