Potential rabid bites require treatment with an inactivated rabies vaccine, while rabies symptoms include fever, anxiety, pain, tingling and spasms.
Although in the UK all dogs require a license, making it less likely to suffer from a rabid bite, rabies is recognised to be a widespread problem, particularly in places like Vietnam and India. While rabies is identified to cause around 500 deaths each year in Vietnam, in India the figure can rise to a staggering 25,000 rabies deaths.
Rabies Prevention and Symptoms
Despite one rarely hearing of rabies-related deaths in the UK, there was an outbreak of the disease in France in the late 1990s. Rabies is transmitted to humans through the saliva of an infected animal, such as a dog, cat or farm animal. The disease may be passed on when one is bitten or scratched by an infected animal or an open wound is licked.
As identified by Jones (2004) in Travel Health, there is a vaccine available against rabies that may be recommended for travellers in the following circumstances:
- high risk of animal contact – vets, agricultural workers
- remote areas with limited/no access to medical care
- remaining longer than a month in a high risk area
However, whether one has been vaccinated or not, medical advice should still be sought immediately after getting bitten by a potentially rabid animal. The best prevention method is to always keep a safe distance from animals, wild or domestic, in locations where there is a high risk of contracting rabies.
In The Essential Guide to Travel Health, Wilson-Howarth (2009) acknowledges symptoms associated with rabies bites, as follows:
- pain and/or tingling at the bite site
- painful throat spasms
- production of rope-like saliva
- muscle spasms
Without treatment, death is the inevitable consequence for those who have contracted rabies from a rabid animal. This is usually likely to occur within as little as one week from being bitten and involves the victim suffering respiratory arrest.
Treatment for Potential Rabid Bites
As soon as one has either been bitten or scratched by a potentially rabid animal, they should seek medical help immediately. According to Wilson-Howarth (2009), first aid for potentially rabid bites should include the following:
- Clean bite by scrubbing with soap under running water.
- Liberally apply alcohol or povidone iodine.
- If far from medical help, self-treat with co-amoxiclav or clarithromycin antibiotics.
- Get a rabies immune globulin (RIG) injection.
- Get a tetanus jab.
- Get an inactivated rabies vaccine.
Rabies is fatal when left untreated and is particularly prevalent in locations such as India, making it important for those travelling to high risk areas for longer than a month to have a pre-trip rabies immunization. Avoid contact with either domestic or wild animals in high risk areas and seek medical advice immediately after being bitten or scratched. First Aid for rabid bites includes cleaning the wound with soap and running water and then liberally applying alcohol.