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What to know about rabies before you travel abroad



Any mammal can carry and spread rabies. In the U.S., mandatory pet vaccination laws have reduced dog and cat rabies to near zero. Wild mammals, such as skunks, raccoons and bats are a bigger threat than domestic animals in the U.S. Outside of the U.S., however, and particularly in developing countries, dogs are the biggest threat. Nearly all human rabies deaths worldwide are caused by rabid dogs.


Consider getting the rabies vaccine prior to certain travel

Getting the rabies vaccine series before traveling abroad is essential for personal protection and peace of mind for certain travelers. Travelers who plan to engage in activities that involve close contact with animals, such as wildlife exploration, volunteering at animal shelters, or working in veterinary clinics, are at higher risk and should consider getting vaccinated. The rabies vaccine provides a proactive approach to safeguarding your health, as treatment options for rabies after exposure are limited and often not readily available in remote or underdeveloped areas. Prioritizing the rabies vaccine series before traveling abroad demonstrates a responsible approach to personal health and safety, ensuring a more enjoyable and worry-free travel experience.


Carefully avoid animal bites

Avoiding animal bites when traveling abroad is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, animal bites carry the risk of transmitting various diseases, including rabies, which can be fatal if left untreated. Different countries may have different levels of rabies control and access to healthcare, making it challenging to receive prompt and appropriate medical attention in case of an animal bite. Secondly, infections can occur from even seemingly minor bites, leading to complications such as cellulitis, abscesses, or other bacterial infections. Additionally, some animals may carry other diseases or parasites that can be transmitted through bites, such as tetanus, or parasites like ticks or fleas. Furthermore, the psychological trauma and inconvenience caused by an animal bite can disrupt travel plans and lead to unnecessary stress and expenses. Therefore, it is essential to exercise caution around unfamiliar animals, avoid approaching or provoking them, and follow local guidelines and advice to minimize the risk of animal bites while traveling abroad.


Go to the hospital if you are bitten by a wild animal

If you are bitten by a mammal, such as a dog, cat, bat, raccoon, or skunk, you will likely need to take the post-exposure rabies series to be on the safe side. Unfortunately, the rabies vaccine series may be difficult to obtain in some parts of the world, which is why it is essential to take the preventive series before traveling for travelers who have a higher risk of being bitten.


Also get your pet's vaccinations updated before traveling with them

While traveling with pets is uncommon, many people do--especially in the case of service animals. Updating your pets' vaccines before traveling abroad is of utmost importance for their health and well-being. When venturing to foreign countries, you expose your pets to unfamiliar environments and potential disease risks. Ensuring their vaccinations are up to date offers a crucial layer of protection against diseases that may be prevalent in those regions. By providing the necessary vaccinations, you minimize the risk of your pets contracting and spreading diseases like rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and more. Additionally, complying with vaccination requirements is often a mandatory aspect of international travel, ensuring the safety of your pets and preventing any complications or delays during immigration processes. Prioritizing your pets' vaccines before traveling abroad demonstrates responsible pet ownership and safeguards their health, allowing them to explore new destinations with confidence and reduced health risks.


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