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Avoid Animals When Travelling In Rabies Affected Countries

Matt Crisp November 15, 2018

Public Health England (PHE) has issued a reminder to holidaymakers and travellers making their way through rabies affected countries to avoid any animals in case they run the risk of contracting the disease.

Rabies is contracted through injuries like scratches and bites from an infected animal, but you may not consider it a problem since it doesn’t circulate in either wild or domestic animals here in the UK. Always do your research when travelling anywhere else, however, so that you know you don’t have to worry and if there is a risk you can mitigate it as far as is possible.

Those heading to Asia and Africa, in particular, should be on their guard, as rabies is especially common here. Avoid contact with dogs, cats and other animals as much as you can and seek advice from your GP or other medical professional as to whether a rabies vaccine is necessary before you travel.

The warning comes after a resident from the UK sadly died after they became infected with the disease after being bitten by a cat while on a trip to Morocco.

If you have been licked, bitten or scratched by an animal in a country that does have rabies – or if you’ve been in contact with a bat in the UK – wash the wound or site of exposure immediately with lots of soap and water. You should also go and see your doctor as soon as you can, even if you’ve been vaccinated previously.

Rabies vaccines are very effective at preventing the disease when administered promptly after exposure. If you’re abroad when exposure takes place, you should also go and see your GP when you get back to complete your course of rabies treatment.

Head of immunisations at PHE Dr Mary Ramsay said: “This is an important reminder of the precautions people should take when travelling to countries where rabies is present. If you are bitten, scratched or licked by an animal you must wash the wound or site of exposure with plenty of soap and water and seek medical advice without delay.

“There is no risk to the wider public in relation to this case but, as a precautionary measure, health workers and close contacts are being assessed and offered vaccination when necessary.”

According to Travel Health Pro, rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear and there are tens of thousands of human cases of the disease each year. It’s found in all continents except Antarctica, occurring in over 150 countries, with more than 95 per cent of human deaths in Africa and Asia.

Symptoms do not typically appear straightway but two or three months after exposure, although this can vary from a week to a year depending on the amount of virus present and the location of the bite or exposure.

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