Here in the safe arms of the United States, most people don’t have to worry about getting rabies. The deadly disease is monitored and kept in check by public health and animal experts nationwide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 23 rabies cases have been reported in the States in the last decade (1).
However, over 25 percent of those cases were contracted outside the US and its territories. That fact means that many cases happened while Americans were traveling abroad.
That was the situation for one 65-year-old woman visiting India in 2017. The woman was bitten by a dog in a rural area while at a yoga retreat. She began experiencing pain six weeks later, reports the Daily Mail (2).
Initially, doctors thought she was having a panic attack due to claustrophobic symptoms, the Daily Mail states. When the doctors discovered she had rabies, the woman was already presenting physical symptoms. She died in May 2017.
Americans may forget about the dangers of rabies in the US. However, other countries don’t have the same level of rabies protection, making awareness a necessity for international travelers.
According to the CDC, some countries continue to see a rabies problem in canines, increasing the risk of infection to humans. Those countries may not have had the same success with vaccinations as Western countries. Specifically, the CDC mentions parts of Asia, Africa, Central and South America present a great risk for rabies (3).
In addition, the Dominican Republic has reported multiple cases recently. According to Outbreak News Today, the most recent cases occurred in two minors just weeks ago in December.
A 5-year-old boy had been bitten in the southwestern Dominican Republic on November 19, reports Outbreak News Today (4). Although he received rabies vaccination ten days after the bite, the boy passed away at the end of December. Another 6-year-old boy also died of rabies on December 14. The Dominican Republic saw 4 rabies cases last year.
The CDC advises, “If traveling to a country where there is an increased incidence in rabies, especially in canine populations, rabies pre-exposure vaccination may be recommended. Rabies vaccination should also be considered if you will be spending lots of time outdoors in rural areas or plan to handle animals.”
Rabies is a dangerous disease that affects the central nervous system. It most often occurs in wild animals, such as bats and foxes. However, it can be transmitted to other animals and humans through a bite.
According to the CDC, symptoms can appear similar to the flu, presenting a headache, fever and general weakness. Pain or itchiness might occur around the bite region. Once symptoms appear, the disease is almost always fatal. Rabies has no cure, except vaccination as a prevention method (5).
Tourists should look up information on their destination country in advance and consult their doctors about appropriate vaccinations. It’s also wise to have a plan in mind should a medical need arise during the international visit.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, August 23). Rabies: Human Rabies. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/location/usa/surveillance/human_rabies.html.
- Blanchard, S. (2019, January 7). Woman, 65, dies of rabies after being bitten by a puppy while on a yoga retreat in India as doctors in the US ‘dismissed her symptoms as a panic attack.’ Daily Mail. Retrieved from https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6565419/CDC-Virginia-woman-died-rabies-2017-India-trip.html.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011, April 22). Rabies: Information for Travelers. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/specific_groups/travelers/index.html.
- News Desk. (2018, December 31). Rabies: 4th human death recorded in the Dominican Republic this year. Outbreak News Today. Retrieved from http://outbreaknewstoday.com/rabies-4th-human-death-recorded-dominican-republic-year-56961/.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012, February 15). Rabies: What are the signs and symptoms of rabies?. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/symptoms/index.html.