Rabies is a viral disease of animals which may be transmitted to humans through bites from the saliva of the infected animals, usually dogs, cats or monkeys. In humans the disease is almost 100% fatal.
Travellers should assume all mammals are rabies carriers especially in the high endemic areas, like South East Asia, Mexico, Central and South America and Africa.
The symptoms usually start 2-8 weeks after the bite (it can be as long as 10 years). Symptoms include fever, headache, vague sensations at the bite site, weakness, paralysis, spasm of swallowing muscles, delirium and convulsion. Death usually occurs in less than a week due to paralysis of breathing.
There is no cure of the disease. Prevention through immunisation, however, is very effective.
Pre-exposure vaccination is usually offered to people with occupational risk (eg. Vet or livestock worker). Travellers to endemic areas for longer periods of time or engaging in high risk activities (eg. trekking, cycling or caving ) should also be immunised. The vaccine is given as three doses over 4 weeks, and usually last up to 2 years. It is available at Travel Vaccination Health Care.
Travellers suffering from bites or scratches from possible infected animals should seek medical advice. The wound should be thoroughly cleansed with soap and water followed by application of an antiseptic. Post-exposure vaccination with 5 vaccine doses plus Rabies Immunoglobulin should also be considered. Local health authorities should be able to give you the appropriate advice.