- Rabies is a vaccine-preventable viral disease, which occurs in more than 150 countries and territories.(1)
- Infection causes tens of thousands of deaths every year, mainly in Asia and Africa.(1)
- Dogs are the main source of human rabies deaths, contributing up to 99% of all rabies transmissions to humans.(1)
- 40% of people bitten by suspect rabid animals are children under 15 years of age.(1)
- Immediate and extensive washing and local treatment of the bite wound or scratch as soon as possible after a suspected exposure reduces the risk of rabies virus infection.(1,2)
- Rabies is virtually 100% fatal once clinical symptoms appear.(1)
- Rabies vaccinations are highly effective, safe and well tolerated.(4)
- If you are travelling to a country where rabies is widespread, you should consult your doctor about the possibility of receiving preexposure vaccination against rabies.(5)
What is rabies?
Rabies is a vaccine-preventable, zoonotic, viral disease. Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal. In up to 99% of cases, domestic dogs are responsible for rabies virus transmission to humans.(1,2)
The rabies virus infects the central nervous system.(1)
If a person does not receive the appropriate medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain, ultimately resulting in death.(1,2)
People are usually infected following a deep bite or scratch from an animal with rabies.(1)
Transmission can also occur if saliva of infected animals comes into direct contact with human mucosa or fresh skin wounds.(1)
Human-to-human transmission through bites or saliva is theoretically possible but has never been confirmed.(1,2)Video Rabies
Where does rabies occur?
Rabies is present on all continents, except Antarctica, with over 95% of human deaths occurring in the Asia and Africa regions.(1)
Who is at risk of contracting rabies?
- All travellers in areas where rabies occurs.(1,2)
- Globally, rabies deaths are underreported and children between the ages of 5–14 years are frequent victims.(1)
- People are usually infected following a deep bite or scratch from an animal with rabies, and transmission to humans by rabid dogs accounts for 99% of cases.(1)
- Bat rabies is also an emerging public health threat in Australia and Western Europe. (1)
What are the symptoms and lasting effects of rabies?
- The incubation period for rabies is typically 2–3 months but may vary from 1 week to 1 year, dependent upon factors such as the location of virus entry and viral load.(1)
- Pain and paresthesia at the site of exposure are often the first symptoms of disease. The disease then progresses rapidly from a nonspecific, prodromal phase with fever and vague symptoms to an acute, progressive encephalitis. The neurologic phase may be characterized by anxiety, paresis, paralysis and of other signs of encephalitis; spasms of swallowing muscles can be stimulated by the sight, sound, or perception of water (hydrophobia); and delirium and convulsions can develop, followed rapidly by coma and death.(2)
- Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive.(1,2)
How can rabies be treated?
- Once clinical symptoms appear, rabies is virtually 100% fatal.(1) Most patients are managed with symptomatic and palliative supportive care.(2)
- The first-aid measure includes immediate and thorough flushing and washing of the wound for a minimum of 15 minutes with soap and water.(1)
- If you are bitten, scratched, or unsure and as rabies is a lethal disease, medical advice should be sought immediately to determine your risk for rabies or other illnesses.(3)
- For people who have never been vaccinated against rabies previously, postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) should always include administration of both HRIG and rabies vaccine.(6)
- People who have been previously vaccinated should receive HRIG and rabies vaccine.(6)
- WHO Fact sheet. Rabies. Online available: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/rabies (Last accessed December 2021)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yellow Book 2020. Chapter 4 Travel-Related Infectious Diseases. Rabies. Online available:https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travel-related-infectious-diseases/rabies (Last accessed December 2021)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rabies Exposure. Online available: https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/exposure/index.html (Last accessed December 2021)
- WHO. Vaccinating against rabies to save lives. Online available: https://www.who.int/activities/vaccinating-against-rabies-to-save-lives (Last accessed December 2021)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rabies. Prevention. Preexposure Vaccinations. Online available: https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/specific_groups/travelers/pre-exposure_vaccinations.html (Last accessed December 2021)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rabies. Prevention. Rabies Postexposure Prophylaxis (PEP). Online available. https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/medical_care/index.html (Last accessed December 2021)