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guide on rabies

Rabies is a disease transmitted to humans from animals (generally dogs), through infected saliva on bites or scratches. It is present in many countries worldwide, though over 95% of deaths occur in Asia and Africa. Rabies can be prevented through prompt treatment following infection, but once symptoms start to appear there is no further treatment available and death is almost inevitable.


  • Itching and pain around the wound
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
Symptoms can take anything from 7 days to over a year to develop. The above symptoms will progress to paralysis, respiratory failure and finally death within a week.

Following suspected infection, the onset of rabies can be prevented by proper cleansing and disinfecting of the wound, and post-exposure immunization. The wound should be washed with soap and water and then alcohol or iodine solution can be applied. Both cleansing and vaccination should be done as soon as possible. Unfortunately, most cases of rabies infection occur in rural areas of poor countries where medical care and an anti-rabies vaccine may be several hours away. It is therefore recommended that you carry a suitable first aid kit to be able to clean the wound in the first instance. It is also advisable to identify, capture or humanely sacrifice the animal involved in order to test it for the virus or at least monitor its health.

The golden rule is: avoid close contact with animals, especially dogs and cats. A pre-exposure vaccine is sometimes recommended for extended trips in rural parts of affected countries, but the vaccine onlys buys you more time; you would still need to be treated following an infected bite. The vaccination is generally recommended if you expect to be spending time in areas that are over 24 hours away from post-exposure treatment. It is a course of 3 injections over a month, so allow plenty of time to get this done before departure if you choose to have it.

Find out more:
UK Health Protection Agency
World Health Organisation

Note: Any of the above comments may be views of the author and not necessarily fact. Acting upon any of this advice is solely the responsibility of the reader.