Rabies death triggers travel warning

by William ASTON on June 7, 2012

The World Health Organisation has had to update its advice to travellers, after the death of a UK woman from a bout of rabies last month.

The still-unnamed woman first contracted the disease after an untreated bite by a dog in India. The death has prompted the WHO to introduce country-by-country advice that details which pre-travel rabies vaccination should be had.

In the case of sub-continent giant India, for example, the advice now reads “Rabies: High risk – Pre-exposure immunisation [is] recommended for travellers and other people for whom contact with domestic animals, particularly dogs, and other rabies vectors is likely”. This is repeated almost identically for practically every other tropical country on the planet.

A specialist in rabies and virologist, Dr Mary Warrell, has gone on record saying that last month’s incident came as a timely reminder that precautions need to be taken before travelling abroad. She added that dog rabies infections are 100 per cent fatal once symptoms have appeared in unvaccinated humans.

In particular, gap-year travellers, frequent travellers, and those that often embark on longer trips have been advised to get vaccinated before leaving their home country. Similarly, any travellers that wish to venture off the beaten track or will most likely have close contact with local animals should contact a GP before heading overseas.

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