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Rabies

Travel Guide Travel Health Rabies

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Introduction

Rabies is a viral disease which causes an inflammation of the brain, otherwise known as acute encephilitis. It is also a preventable disease. The virus is transmitted from animal to animal or animal to human through contact with an infected animal's saliva. This transmission can occur through a bite wound or scratch, by licking (saliva contacts an already existing open wound) and/or through the membranes of the mouth, nose or eyes. When untreated rabies is fatal.

To date, there is only one reported case of a person surviving rabies without receiving post-exposure vaccinations. [1][2]

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Prevention

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The first line of defense against rabies is actually you, the traveler. Evaluation of the intended destination(s) is key to assessing risk and avoiding potential exposure. People primarily traveling to rural areas, participating in wildlife volunteer projects or are medical/veterinary personnel should seriously consider receiving the pre-exposure series of vaccinations. Those visiting more populated areas are of a much lesser risk and pre-exposure vaccinations become a personal "comfort level" decision.

Pre-Exposure Vaccinations

*Pre-exposure vaccinations may vary slightly from country to country so it is advisable to check with a personal physician or travel health clinic for their recommendations.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a series of three vaccinations given at 0, 7, 21 or 28 days depending on the facility/physician. Pre-exposure vaccinations do not provide 100% immunity to the disease. They do, however, increase the amount of time by 24-48 hours between the initial contact and required treatment. They also decrease the number of post-exposure injections.[3]

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Symptoms and Treatment

If you have been bitten or suspect an open wound has been contaimated by a rabid animal, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water. Though rabies is a virus, an antibacterial hand sanitizer is a substitute when soap and water are not readily available. The sanitizer contains a high level of alcohol which will help dilute the virus and decrease the chances of concurrent bacterial infection of the wound. Seek immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of rabies include irritability, changes in behavior, headache, fever and possible itching at the site of infection. The symptoms will progress to include spasm of the throat muscles, convulsions, delirium and paralysis.[4][5]

Post-Exposure Vaccinations

The number of post-exposure vaccinations will inherently depend upon pre-exposure prophylaxis. Basically, if pre-exposure vaccinations have been given, the number of post-exposure injections will be decreased.

Series w/Pre-treatment:
A series of three vaccinations will be administered at 0, 7 and 14 days. (Day 0 being the first day of medical attention after exposure.) These injections are administered intramuscularly in the arm. Hospitalization will be required for observation purposes.[6][7]

Series w/o Pre-Treatment
One initial treatment with an immune globulin (to boost the imune system) and five treatments of rabies vaccine will be administered over 28 days. The treatment regimen is 0, 3, 7, 14 and 28 days. The immune globulin and first rabies vaccine will be given on day 0. Again, hospitalization will be required.[6][7]

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This is version 12. Last edited at 17:03 on Oct 11, 11 by Isadora. 141 articles link to this page.

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