Rabies is a potentially fatal disease caused by bites and scratches from infected animals. It is a viral infection which affects the brain and spine causing swelling of both causing damage to the nervous system.
Unlike other illnesses; rabies has a much more delayed onset and symptoms may not appear for several months or even years in some cases. Rabies has non-specific features to begin with as fever, headache and fatigue set in. This can then develop into either ‘furious’ rabies; which causes muscle spasms and is most commonly seen in movies with frothing at the mouth and violent/aggressive behaviour, this leads to a deterioration in condition and death. The other type; dumb rabies is often more lethal as it is misdiagnosed. The first signs are paralysis around the bite; this then travels up the affected limb which leads to respiratory failure and death.
There is no specific treatment for rabies. For travellers at risk of exposure to rabies it is highly advised that a pre-exposure vaccine is received. If bitten by an animal considered to have rabies or even potentially to have rabies; the wound should be thoroughly washed with warm water and a mild disinfectant and covered with a bandage and then seek medical help urgently.
Asia, Africa and Latin America have the highest risk of rabies due to their large population of stray dogs. Travellers to these regions that are going to be living in deprived regions or working with animals should ensure they receive the pre-exposure vaccine before travelling. Risk in Europe and North America comes mainly from foxes, skunks and racoons. Bats are considered to be a rabies threat in all countries. Other animals which may carry rabies are monkeys, jackals and mongoose.
The best form of prevention is to avoid contact with wild and domestic animals while travelling:
The rabies vaccine is recommended for those at risk of the disease e.g. lab workers, zoo workers, animal carers and those living in areas with a high number of rabid creatures. The primary course consists of 3 vaccinations given over the period of a month at £50 per vaccine. If you would like more information on the vaccination courses available or boosters please contact our pharmacy team on 02089021328.