International SOS Offers Advice for World Rabies Day

-- Despite Rabies being preventable in humans, it causes over 55,000* deaths a year

-- Even after contact with Rabies, it is treatable with prompt medical attention

-- Vaccination should be considered prior to travel depending on location

Sep 27, 2012, 10:38 ET from International SOS

TREVOSE, Pa., Sept. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- In advance of World Rabies Day, Sept. 28, International SOS, the world's leading medical and security services company, offers advice to leisure and business travelers on the importance of vaccination and treatment for Rabies.

Rabies is found on all continents except Antarctica and, if left untreated, is fatal.  It is a viral disease contracted when a person is bitten or scratched by an infected (rabid) animal – most frequently a dog.  One to three months after contracting Rabies, non-specific symptoms such as fever, tingling or numbness near the bite might develop. Eventually it causes delirium, convulsions, coma and death.

"We receive calls related to animal bites to our Assistance Centers nearly every day," said Robert Quigley, MD, D.Phil., Regional Medical Director, Americas, for International SOS. "In countries with endemic Rabies, all animal bites and scratches and even a lick to broken skin must be taken seriously. If medical attention is not sought promptly and the patient contracts Rabies, the disease is fatal. Rabies can be prevented through appropriate vaccination."

The risk of exposure is variable according to region, but is highest in parts of Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. Rabies-infected animals include dogs, bats, monkeys and cats.

Travelers with extensive outdoor exposure in rural areas may be at high risk even if the trip is brief. In particular, anyone who plans to go jogging in unfamiliar areas should ensure they are vaccinated.

Assessment and prevention regimens are crucial for travelers and expats working abroad. Companies should consider Rabies along with other public health threats in custom assessment and vaccination regimens** to meet their Duty of Care obligations for travelers.

"We strongly recommend that travelers and expatriates get vaccinated before they go to countries where there is a high risk of the disease," said Quigley. "Longer-term visitors are at particular risk. So are children, who are more likely to pet stray animals. If a possible exposure to Rabies occurs, treatment is ideally needed within 72 hours.  Pre-exposure vaccination is the best method of mitigating the risks of contracting the disease."

What to do if exposed to Rabies: If bitten, scratched or licked by an animal, seek medical advice promptly. In countries with weaker medical infrastructures or where treatment is not available, it may be necessary to evacuate a person for appropriate treatment.

  • Immediately clean the wound with soap and water, and a povidone-iodine solution, if available.
  • Seek medical advice from a qualified source or your medical assistance company. Notify the doctor that you may have been exposed to Rabies, even if you have had pre-exposure vaccination. They can then immediately assess the need for Rabies post-exposure treatment, THIS CAN BE LIFE SAVING.
  • Treat first/ask questions later. It's very difficult and sometimes impossible to know if an animal has Rabies. As Rabies is fatal, it's best to err on the side of giving treatment.

Those who have not had pre-exposure vaccination require both Rabies immunoglobulin (RIG), injected into and around the wound and several doses of Rabies vaccine. Those who have had pre-exposure vaccination require only two further doses of Rabies vaccine (they do not require RIG).

Notes to Editors:
* World Health Organization statistics

About International SOS

International SOS ( is the world's leading medical & security services company operating from over 700 sites in 76 countries with 10,000 employees, led by 1,100 physicians and 200 security specialists. Our global services include medical and risk planning, preventative programs, in-country expertise and emergency response for travelers, expatriates and their dependents of over 70 percent of the Fortune 500 companies.

**MedFit programs
International SOS' MedFit programs help mitigate health risks associated with business travel and long term international deployment. These services consist of pre-deployment, pre-travel and periodical medical examinations as well as vaccination programs. MedFit programs play an important role preventing sickness and injury and helping companies meet their Duty of Care obligations.

SOURCE International SOS