Travel Hazards

Rabies Safety Tips for Travelers

Rabies is a severe, deadly infection acquired from exposure to saliva from an infected mammal. This typically occurs via a bite; however, scratches that break the skin and saliva exposure to your mucous membranes (e.g., eyes or mouth) are also of concern.

Rabies is present in most of the world, though the typical animals that pass it vary in different countries. Stray dogs and cats in developing countries are of particular risk. Wild mammals, including bats, are also potential carriers. Since it is not possible to tell if a mammal is rabid by their appearance or behavior, and any animal bite can result in serious injury or infection, travelers are strongly advised to avoid contact with all wild and stray animals. Furthermore, since pet vaccination is not routine in much of the developing world, contact with pet dogs, cats and monkeys should be avoided. Aside from rabies, monkeys, bats, birds, and other animals are known to carry other dangerous infections, avoiding contact while traveling is a good idea.

Of particular concern are children, who are more likely to get bitten by animals. Furthermore, children often do not tell parents about bites or minor injuries from animals. Any animal bite, scratch or saliva exposure to mucous membranes (e.g., eyes or mouth) should be washed immediately, and urgent medical attention should be sought to determine whether or not rabies post-exposure treatment is needed. Urgent evacuation to a city or country with better health care resources might be necessary when appropriate treatment is not available locally.

Pre-exposure vaccination for rabies is recommended for some high-risk travelers. However, previously vaccinated individuals still require urgent rabies vaccine booster doses after a potential exposure.