World Rabies Day, 28th Sept: Am I at risk?

Rabies: Advice for UK travellers

by Lillian Miller and Claire Hanlon

World rabies day is the 28th September 2019. Last year a UK resident sadly died after becoming infected with rabies following a cat bite during a visit to Morocco. We’d like to take this opportunity to remind travellers of this rare but serious virus. The risk of rabies to travellers has not increased, however increased awareness is important.

Simple steps for prevention

  • Know if you are travelling to a country where rabies is present

  • Pre-travel vaccination is the first step in protecting yourself

  • Contact with wild or domestic animals during travel should be avoided

  • Not to attempt to pick up an unusually tame animal or one that appears to be unwell

  • Not to attract stray animals by offering food or by being careless with litter

  • Make sure you know what to do if bitten, scratched or licked by an animal

Rabies infographic.png

Am I at risk?

Rabies is a fatal viral infection causing inflammation of the spinal cord and the brain. It is almost always untreatable once symptoms appear (99.99%).

Rabies is present in the saliva of warm-blooded mammals in many countries. It spreads to people through a bite or a scratch from a rabid animal: the animal may not appear rabid at the time. The virus may also enter the body through a lick on broken skin or a lick on the eyes, nose or mouth. While rabies cases are rare in travelers, animal bites and scratches are not. Travellers must know what to do if they are bitten or scratched while travelling in a high-risk country. Accessing correct advice and treatment can be challenging in some countries, which is why pre-travel education and vaccination is key.

Rabies is widespread throughout the world. Please follow the link to see if Rabies is present in a country you are travelling to: Is Rabies high risk where you are travelling to? (

Would you know what to do?

What should I do if bitten, scratched or licked by an animal?

1. Immediately wash and thoroughly flush the area with soap and lots of water. Apply iodine solution or high proof alcohol if possible.

2. Seek medical attention locally – do not wait until you return to the UK. Even if you have had rabies vaccine before travelling, it is still important to seek medical advice promptly. If advised, start the rabies post-exposure treatment abroad and do not wait until you get back to the UK.

3. But always contact your GP on return to the UK, even if you received post-exposure treatment abroad or the exposure happened several weeks ago. You may need to continue a course of rabies vaccines. If you have a record of any treatment given, remember to bring this with you. Your GP will also be able to arrange for post-exposure treatment if this hasn’t been started while you were abroad, but is considered necessary by Public Health England.