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Rabies Injection?

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11. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 11y

I am a pharmacologist with many years of animal lab work experience. Due to the varety of species we came in contact with daily, we were required to be immunized for rabies. I believe I can offer some sound and useful info concerning this topic. I hope it will be helpful in your decisions.

For everyone considering the rabies vaccination(s), here are some items to take under consideration:

1) The pre-exposure vaccination is actually a series of three injections given over a one month period. The vaccine is very effective when taken as a series. If you are exposed after the series, two additional injections will be given (as post-exposure prophylaxis).

2) Receiving only one of the injections prior to your trip will NOT give you adequate protection. The single treatment will give good immunity for a short period of time (~ one week), but without the additional two treatments, you will not build up enough antibodies to be effective against rabies. If exposed, you will ultimately receive five to seven treatments following the exposure.

3) Rabies vaccine is expensive (equivalent to Hepatitis A&B in some countries). Most individuals will experience some form of side effect, though in the majority of people, those effects will be mild. They include muscle aches and stiffness, headache, nausea, soreness at injection site. Again, most of you will experience mild responses - aspirin or ibuprofen can be taken to ease these.

4) Assess you risk of exposure before making your decision. The internet is a good place to start. Almost every country has a health-related site that will contain useful information. In the US, www.cdc.org will be helpful. (Centers for Disease Control website.) The UK and OZ also have good sites.

5) In reference to exposure, if you are going to be spending most of your trip in rural areas or trekking through the jungles, your chance of exposure is greater than hopping city to city. As Pardus stated, it was a good idea for him since he was doing conservation work with wild animals. If you are not going to be involved in this type of activity, rabies vaccinations may not be necessary for yu.

6) Be mindful while traveling. Rabies exposure is in your control. There are those few incidences where someone has been bitten by a wild animal - but the majority of those bites happen out of carelessness around the animals. NOT ALL (of course), but still more often than not, the bite could have been avoided. (Do not pet the local stray dogs because they are cute!) Wild animals are just that and, though cute as can be, they don't want to be touched. You will be in their territory and they should be given the same respect as you would want from another person entering your territory. Take a camera, the memory will be a pleasant one and last longer.

12. Posted by Melanie N (First Time Poster 1 posts) 7y

Hello, i have been reading all of the posts on Rabies and whether to take the pre-exposure vacination. My family and myself will be going on holiday to Thailand in August (Bangkok and Ko Samui) and i am very worried, more for 7 year old sons safety. I have heard that there can be serious side effects to the vacine,is it necessary to have the vacine? If we were to be bitten without taking the pre-exposure vacine , what are the risks? Will the post exposure treatment suffice?
Need lots of advise from anyone who is medically trained. I've also heard that there haven't been any cases of Rabies for quite some years on Ko Samui, is that right?
Thankyou

13. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 7y

Quoting Melanie N

Hello, i have been reading all of the posts on Rabies and whether to take the pre-exposure vacination. My family and myself will be going on holiday to Thailand in August (Bangkok and Ko Samui) and i am very worried, more for 7 year old sons safety. I have heard that there can be serious side effects to the vacine,is it necessary to have the vacine? If we were to be bitten without taking the pre-exposure vacine , what are the risks? Will the post exposure treatment suffice?
Need lots of advise from anyone who is medically trained. I've also heard that there haven't been any cases of Rabies for quite some years on Ko Samui, is that right?
Thankyou

Hi Melanie,

First of all, don't be worried. I can not speak personally about Thailand, but all of the information I have read (so I could answer your question about the threat in Thailand) does not show that rabies is prevalent in the areas you will be visiting. With that said, let me address your questions:

1) I have heard that there can be serious side effects to the vacine
Every vaccine has the potential for side effects. The most common side effects of the rabies vaccine are: redding, soreness, swelling and itching at the injection site. Approximately 20% of recipients experience headache, abdominal cramping and nausea/vomiting. Those side effects are usually mild and short in duration - similar to taking an influenza vaccine. Less than 5% experience more severe effects such as joint pain, hives and/or fever. DO NOT take the vaccinations if you or a family member have an allergy to eggs unless it is a vaccine that is free of ovalbumin (chicken protein). Speak with your medical provider about which vaccine they use. Rabies vaccines are safe for use in children (including infants) and the side effects are similar to those seen in adults.

2) Is it necessary to have the vacine?
No. BUT, that will depend on the activities you have planned and your length of stay. By "holiday", I am assuming your visit will be no longer than 30 days. Rabies vaccinations are recommended for those who will be working in a veterinary field capacity, working with wildlife, spending an extended (3+ months) time in very rural areas or doing "adventure tourism" in remote areas. Basic common sense is your best protection. Though, with a 7 year old son, I can understand the concern as kids like to get "up close and pet" animals.

3) If we were to be bitten without taking the pre-exposure vacine , what are the risks?
Without the pre-exposure vaccinations, you have 24 hours to receive medical attention. With the pre-exposure vaccinations, you have 48-54 hours to receive treatment. Either way, you need treatment immediately. The number of inoculations you will receive, at time of treatment, will be either 5 rabies vaccinations and 1 immunoglobulin injection (for no pre-exposure vaccination regimen taken) or 2-3 rabies vaccinations if you received the pre-exposure series. Either way, you will take some jabs.

Will the post exposure treatment suffice?
Yes. As stated above, you have 24 hours to seek medical attention and will receive more injections.

For more information:

CDC - What Will I Be Given for Rabies Post-exposure
Prophylaxis?

I'm sorry but the other links I wanted to posted are not available at the moment. Seems the CDC has a problem and the pages are "not available" though their server has been notified. I'll post them as soon as they fix the problem.

14. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 7y

Quoting Isadora

I'm sorry but the other links I wanted to posted are not available at the moment. Seems the CDC has a problem and the pages are "not available" though their server has been notified. I'll post them as soon as they fix the problem.

The CDC site is back up so here is additional information to help you make your decisions:

CDC - Health Information for Travelers to Thailand

CDC - International Travel with Infants and Young Children

CDC - Prevention of Specific Infectious Diseases: Rabies

WHO - Rabies

Mayo Clinic - Rabies

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