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Rabies is a rare viral infection of the brain that follows a bite, scratch, or, less commonly, a lick from an infected animal.


An animal can seem normal and still carry the rabies virus. Following exposure the only way to avoid rabies deadly symptoms is to get medical attention right away. Rabies is fatal if not treated, but may be prevented by prompt immunization after exposure.

Rabies is found on all continents, except Antarctica. In certain areas of the world, canine rabies is an especially high risk. Outside of the US, pets are not immunized against rabies. The types of animals which most often can be infected with rabies vary from country to country. Your local Kelsey-Seybold Travel Clinic will have information relating to rabies in the countries you will be visiting.

Prevention tips

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times and stay alert.
  • Not all rabid animals behave ferociously - some become docile.
  • Animals which may carry rabies can include dogs, cats, foxes, skunks, raccoons, bats and cattle.
  • Avoid contact with wild animals and stray domestic animals, particularly dogs and cats while visiting areas of increased rabies risk.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by any animal that might have rabies, wash the wound immediately for several minutes with lots of soap and clean water. You must see a doctor immediately for treatment, even if you have been vaccinated.
  • Currently there are two vaccines available in the United States. Please consult your travel physician to determine which vaccine is right for you
  • In addition, pre-exposure vaccination will reduce the number of injections you require if you are exposed to rabies during your trip


This list is not conclusive. Consult your Travel Medicine Clinic for additional health information.  

You should consider pre-exposure vaccination against rabies if:

  • You will be spending one month or more in countries where rabies exists
  • You will be traveling in rural areas, away from a major medical center
  • You will be working in a job that may expose you to rabies, such as:
    • Certain laboratory workers
    • Veterinarian
    • Animal control and wildlife workers
    • Spelunkers
    • Forest rangers
    • Conservation officers
    • Agricultural specialists
    • People whose travel abroad may involve more frequent animal contact - such as hikers in rabies-risk areas

Vaccinations

If you are going to be vaccinated, a series of three injections* will be required. You will receive:

  • Two injections, one week apart
  • A third injection, two weeks after the second injection

* Even if you have received three injections of vaccine, you must still see a doctor for prompt medical treatment if you have reason to believe that you have been exposed to rabies.