Q&A for travellers
I’m going to Asia/Africa/South America, should I be vaccinated against rabies?
Other than for short trips to main tourist destinations, all travellers should consider it. Gap-year travellers, frequent travellers, those on longer trips, anyone going far from the beaten track or likely to be in close contact with local communities or animals should have the vaccine.
Where can I be vaccinated?
Vaccine shortages are common, but at the moment the vaccine is readily available at specialist travel clinics. Rabies vaccine for travel is not provided on the NHS (for British Nationals). In India, luckily we do not have any shortage of vaccination in the private sector, and any good clinic/ hospital should be able to provide you the same.
What’s the down side?
There isn’t one, apart from the cost (£25-£70 per dose) and the need for a three-dose course over three weeks (cost in Britain). In India, the cost is approximately INR 300-500 per dose (~ 5 pounds per dose)
What if there is not enough time to complete the course?
Ask your travel clinic for advice. For short trips, last-minute vaccination may be unhelpful unless you have future trips in mind. But if you are about to leave for a longer trip, it is sometimes worth starting the course before you go and taking the remaining doses with you.
What contact carries a risk?
Rabies can affect any mammal, though most cases are transmitted by dog saliva. You don’t need to be bitten: licks or scratches, especially on damaged or broken skin, are also a risk.
What should I do if I am bitten?
Scrub and rinse the wound thoroughly, and disinfect with alcohol or strong antiseptic. Get prompt local advice, and back this up with a call to your travel insurance company, your doctor in the UK, or a specialist travel clinic. Always report a bite, and seek specialist help.
Without prior rabies vaccination, you may need a rapid vaccine course, plus an injection of rabies immune globulin (RIG). RIG is scarce and very expensive, and reliable treatment can be hard to find. This is true for many places in India also, especially finding the HUMAN RIG can be difficult and costly (Approximately INR 5,000 per vial, and adults may need 2-4 vials)
With the pre-travel (“pre-exposure”) rabies vaccination, simple booster doses are all that are needed following a bite. These provide full protection.