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fitfortravel

Travel health information for people travelling abroad from the UK

Animal Bites

Introduction

Encounters with animals can cause problems for the traveller and any unnecessary contact with them should be avoided.

Rabies

Rabies is present worldwide - except in the United Kingdom, parts of Scandinavia, Japan, Oceania, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, Malta and some Caribbean islands. It can be transmitted to humans in several ways, but most commonly via the bite of an infected domestic dog. Rabies, if left untreated, will always cause death.

Bat Rabies - bats may carry a Lyssavirus that is closely related to rabies virus and causes a similar disease. It is endemic in bat populations in countries otherwise considered free from rabies, including the United Kingdom. All encounters with bats should be discussed with a medical practitioner as bat bites are not always apparent.

Precautions to Take:

  • Do not stroke dogs and cats and avoid contact with bats, jackals, foxes and other wild animals.
  • In an area endemic for rabies all unprovoked bites or licks should be considered a possible exposure.
  • In the event of possible exposure to rabies immediate first aid should be instigated:-
    • Thorough cleansing of the wound with soap/detergent and running water for 5 minutes.
    • Application of an antiseptic (e.g. iodine, chlorhexidine or alcohol).
    • Seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

It may be necessary to commence rabies vaccination and anti-tetanus measures. If you have been immunized against rabies prior to being bitten you will still require two further doses of vaccine. Travellers who have never been immunized against rabies that sustain a potentially rabid bite must seek medical attention and vaccination as soon as possible.

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