Though it may be far from many travelers’ minds, rabies poses a lethal threat in most parts of the world.  Today’s travel bulletin addressed the 100th rabies related death in Indonesia.  Earlier this month the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported on a fatal case of rabies acquired by a Virginia man in India in 2009. Rabies is rare in the U.S.– since 2000, only 31 cases have been reported but seven were acquired abroad. Cases were contracted by Americans traveling in India, the Philippines, Mexico, Ghana, El Salvador and Haiti. Rabies is transmitted by animal bites—most commonly by dogs but also wild animals, including bats.

The biggest threat is posed by dogs in Asia and Africa, but very few countries are free of rabies (see chart below). And many rabies cases are likely treated abroad and not reported. According to the CDC, the actual rate of rabies exposure in tourists has not been calculated with accuracy; however, studies have found a range of roughly 16 to 200 infections per 100,000 travelers.

Rabies immunization is widely available and is a good idea if you are traveling to the developing world. Unless treated early, rabies is usually fatal. Travelers are advised to avoid contact with unattended dogs, and spelunkers should seek treatment if they come into physical contact with a cave-dwelling bat that produces a scratch or cut.

Countries reporting no indigenous cases of rabies during 20051

Source: Centers for Disease Control   

Region Countries
Africa  Cape Verde, Libya, Mauritius, Réunion, São Tome and Principe, and Seychelles
Americas North: Bermuda, St. Pierre and Miquelon Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Kitts (Saint Christopher) and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Turks and Caicos, and Virgin Islands (UK and US)South: Uruguay
Asia Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia (Sabah), Qatar, Singapore, United Arab Emirates
Europe Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic2, Denmark2, Finland, France2, Gibraltar, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands2, Norway, Portugal, Spain2 (except Ceuta/ Melilla), Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom2
Oceania3 Australia2, Northern Mariana Islands, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Micronesia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Vanuatu

1Bat rabies may exist in some areas that are reportedly free of rabies in other animals.

2Bat lyssa viruses are known to exist in these areas that are reportedly free of rabies in other animals.

3Most of Pacific Oceania is reportedly rabies-free.

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About The Author

Michael Hartung, editor of Healthy Travel Blog, serves as head of Product Development at HTH Worldwide. Mike is responsible for all product strategy and development for the company. Mike has over twenty years of successful product innovation to his credit. He has played a senior management role in three start-up companies and has built complex organizations in rapid growth environments. Prior to joining HTH in 2000, he served as President of U.S. Healthcare’s Workers Comp Advantage subsidiary, which he co-founded with Angelo Masciantonio. Mike has also served in senior roles at Aon Consulting, Vantage Health Partners and Managed Health Care Services. Mike earned an M.B.A. from New York University, an M.A. from Duke University and a B.A. from Carleton College.

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