Rabies! Once symptoms develop, almost always 100% fatal

Rabies is a terrible viral infection acquired when an animal with rabies bites/scratches you. Once rabies has entered your body it travels to and attacks your nervous system. It may take days to years but people infected with rabies have a mortality rate close to 100%.

Luckily in Australia we do not have rabies, except for our bats which can carry Lyssavirus (ABLV). Elsewhere in the world rabies is carried by mammals such as dogs, cats, monkeys, racoons, skunks, bats etc. Most human deaths from rabies result from dog bites.

Rabies can be prevented by following the steps below:

  • Get vaccinated for rabies before you leave for your trip. It is a very safe and effective vaccination.
  • Avoid animal bites. Don’t befriend strays or cute creatures whilst on your trip. Avoid places known to have lots of at-risk animals eg The Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali. Be especially careful with small children who are more at risk of being bitten or scratched. Cover all open wounds – a lick to a bleeding open wound is as risky as being bitten or scratched.
  • Whether or not you have been vaccinated prior to your trip if you are bitten or scratched you need to wash the wound straight away and seek medical care urgently. Wash the wound thoroughly with copious amounts of water and soap/antiseptic for 15mins.
  • If you have had rabies vaccination prior to your trip and are bitten or scratched on your trip, after cleaning the wound you need to seek medical care to have rabies vaccine boosters.
  • If you have not been vaccinated prior to your trip and receive a rabies prone bite or scratch you will need different and more extensive management than someone who has had their rabies vaccination pre trip. One of the medications you may need (HRIG) is in short supply in many parts of the world so emergency evacuation may be required. Ensure you have travel health insurance. As well as HRIG you will need multiple rabies vaccinations after the bite or scratch.
  • Never delay seeking medical care after a rabies bite/scratch. If given early before rabies symptoms develop, correct management is close to 100% effective in preventing rabies disease from developing. If medications are given late, once rabies symptoms develop, survival is unlikely.

Please contact the Shepparton Travel Clinic if you are interested in vaccination or further information. 

Disclaimer: The information on the Shepparton Travel Clinic website has been prepared for general information purpose only. It is not intended to be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice. No person should act, fail to act, disregard professional medical advice, or delay seeking professional medical advice on the basis of this material. Shepparton Travel Clinic does not guarantee the accuracy, currency or completeness of any of this information and will not be liable for any loss, damage or injury directly or indirectly caused by this material or its use.