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Where is this disease found?

Rabies exists all around the world and especially in Africa, Asia and South America. Carriers of the virus can be infected mammals such as cats, dogs, monkeys or bats. It is not always possible to know if an animal is infected. Some carry the infection without any visible symptoms. Possible signs are that an animal shows aggression or anxiety, or a naturally fearful animal loses its fear.

What are the symptoms of the disease?

The first visible symptoms can appear a few weeks or even up to several months after infection depending on how close to the brain the site of the bite or wound was.

The progress of the disease can be divided into several stages. In the initial stage, the symptoms are shivering, fever, depression, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and headache. The wound can become itchy or painful. During the following (neurological) stage patients may experience hyperactivity, a stiff neck, convulsions and paralysis. During this phase reflective surfaces such as glass or water can trigger severe cramps. In the end, the patient lapses into a coma and dies.

How is the disease contracted?

The virus is transmitted through infected mammals’ saliva. A human being can be infected if bitten, scratched or licked by an infected animal. The virus penetrates the body through small wounds in the skin or through mucous membranes in the eyes or mouth. Once inside the nervous system, the virus will cause rabies, and no cure is possible.

What action should you take?

Seek medical attention immediately if you have been bitten, scratched or licked by a potentially infected animal. The wound must be washed thoroughly with soap and water and disinfected with betadine or alcohol. Make sure that you get an antiserum, preferably within 24 hours. Start a series of five vaccinations as soon as possible. You may also need antibiotics and a tetanus vaccine. Once you return to the Netherlands, contact Travel Clinic, your local hospital/medical clinic or doctor as soon as possible. If you have previously been vaccinated against Rabies you will not need the antiserum and fewer other vaccinations will be necessary.

Recommended preventative measures include:

  • Avoiding contact with mammals (especially with monkeys and dogs).
  • Never touching sick or dead animals.