Rabies is a lethal disease of warm-blooded animals and people caused by the rabies virus (rhabdovirus), which affects the central nervous system.
Manner of infection
There are two types of rabies: forest rabies (transmitted by animals) and city rabies (transmitted by domestic animals). Travellers should mainly watch out for dogs, cats, bats and other mammals.
Rabies is transmitted from one animal to another animal/human almost exclusively through bites. The biggest concentration of the virus is in the nervous system. It is secreted mainly in saliva. Infection can occur also through contact of injured skin or mucous membrane (eyes, mouth, nose) with saliva of the infected or rabid animal, through scratches, through the airway mucous in bat-infested caves, through lab work or through contact with fox vaccination baits.
Rabies is an incurable disease.
- Avoid contacts with animal and be careful around unknown animals.
- Do not stroke, feed or tease wild or stray animals.
- Inform the children about the danger of rabies and teach them how to deal with domestic and wild animals. In this way you will not only prevent the possibility of infection with the rabies virus, but also many unpleasant or dangerous injuries.
- Do not touch fox vaccination baits. They contain a living rabies virus which can also cause infection.
In case an unknown animal (one for which you are not certain whether it has rabies or not) does injure you, it is important to cleanse the wound immediately and seek local medical attention.
- Wound dressing:
- Let blood flow from the wound for a couple of minutes.
- Wipe the saliva away from the wound with a clean tissue or sterile gauze. Do not wipe it over or in the wound.
- Rinse the wound thoroughly with soap and wash it with clean flowing water, cover the wound with sterile gauze and apply the dressing.
- Seek local medical service, where you will get detailed information about the risk of rabies infection and about the time and place where you can get a preventive vaccination. Vaccination after you are bitten effectively prevents the development of the disease. If you can choose the vaccine, you are advised to choose a European one. You can also check if vaccination at home would be early enough.
- See your doctor immediately. Your doctor will dress your wound appropriately and send you to an anti-rabies clinic. There is no sign of infection on the wound. Even if the wound heals without complications, it may be infected.
3. If the infection was caused by a wild, unknown or domestic animal, which cannot be put under 10 day veterinary control (it escaped, died or was killed an buried), the infected person should be vaccinated against rabies as soon as possible. Vaccination is safe and effective with minor adverse reactions.
4. Preventive vaccination is especially advisable for travellers who plan to spend a longer period of time in an area with higher risk of rabies infection or who will be more exposed to animals. Preventive vaccination includes three doses of vaccine in a period or 0-1 week – 3 weeks. Revitalizing doses are necessary.
Rabies is present world-wide except in Australia, New Zealand, Greenland, the northern part of Canada and a large part of Western Europe; the risk of infection is higher in Africa, northern part of South America, Central America and in a large part of Asia.
There are an estimated 50.000 - 100.000 human deaths annually from rabies worldwide!