Rabies is an acute viral infection most commonly transmitted through the saliva of infected animals. Most often, victims get infected through a bite or a scratch and the most common animals that spread it are dogs, but cards and monkeys in some parts of the world are also potential sources of rabies. The only animal thought to carry the disease in all parts of the world is the bat. Rabies causes inflammation of the spinal cord and brain which can be fatal if untreated.
Rabies is found worldwide, but areas where the prevalence of human infection is high, include Asia, Africa and South America. Transmission most commonly occurs through bites from animals e.g. dogs and monkeys.
If you are travelling to an area where rabies is endemic and expect to be exposed to the risk of transmission due to travel activities, it is advisable that you book in for the pre-exposure rabies vaccine.
This is taken in the form of 3 doses, over a period of 3-4 weeks and it’s an injection in your upper arm. A vaccination involving 4 doses over a period of 20-28 days can also be administered if the pre-exposure vaccine has not been received and accelerated protection is required.
If you have been previously vaccinated against rabies but continue to be exposed to it, usually because of your job, you might need additional protection and a booster is usually highly recommended. In some cases, a booster is also recommended if the last time you got vaccinated against rabies was longer than one year ago.
If you get bitten or scratched by an animal that is infected with rabies, it is imperative to seek medical help as quickly as possible, even if you had been vaccinated against it. You should also thoroughly wash the area you have been bitten with soap and water and the wound rinse under the tap for a couple of minutes. If you do have any iodine solution or alcohol, apply it to the wound.
It is important to get vaccinated against rabies if you are planning on travelling to one of the areas where this disease is common. It is also recommended to have the vaccine especially if you are planning to stay there for more than one month and medical care might not be readily available or you plan on taking part in activities that could increase the risk of you being exposed to animals that could carry rabies.
Pregnant women are also encouraged to have the rabies vaccine if they are going to travel to a high-risk area.
In some cases, your job could also put you at a high risk of getting infected, especially if you work with animals. It usually involved people who:
✔ Handle Bats
✔ Work at quarantine centres and have to deal with imported animals;
✔ Work in a laboratory and have handle samples that contain rabies
Although they are rare, some side effects that patients experienced are a temporary soreness, redness and swelling around the area where the vaccine was administered. In extremely rare cases, other side effects would include a mild fever, headaches, rashes and vomiting.
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