Rabies: Little Critters Carry Big Diseases2 min read
Although rabies is rare in the U.S., it is still a risk in both rural and urban areas. A recent New York Times article, Taking the ‘Wild’ in Wildlife Seriously, reminds us that rabies can occur anywhere and is a very real threat to health and safety.
Outside the U.S., rabies is even more common. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 55,000 people die of rabies each year; 95% of these fatal cases occur in Asia and Africa.
Rabies is most often transmitted to humans through a bite from an infected animal. Simply petting or being licked by an infected animal does not generally cause disease. Modern rabies therapy has an extremely high success rate, so it is imperative to get help immediately if bitten, especially because once the flu-like clinical signs of rabies develop in a human, the disease is almost always fatal.
Travelers should be aware of animals wherever they are, particularly those behaving with unusual boldness around humans. Because any animal – wild or domestic – can pose a threat, contact with any unfamiliar ones should be avoided.
Although the rabies vaccine is not necessary for most travelers, it is available for high-risk individuals such as field biologists who expect to be handling animals. It may also be appropriate for those traveling in areas where rabies is still a problem in domestic animals and where prophylactic care may not be readily available, such as for hikers exploring remote rural areas. If you’re not sure whether you need the vaccine, check out the CDC recommendations for getting the rabies vaccination before traveling.
Author: Melissa Haertsch
Melissa Haertsch, a guest contributor to the Healthy Travel blog, is a freelance writer specializing in healthcare, travel and fine food. She favors outdoor-related journeys, which she launches from her home in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania.
Photo by bartmaguire