More people travelling abroad are bitten by animals that may have rabies

Since 2010, the number of Danes who were vaccinated abroad following possible exposure to rabies has doubled.

EPI-NEWS 2018 no 9 - figure 1

In 2017, a total of 215 persons were given treatment against rabies after having been bitten by animals. The overwhelming majority initiated treatment after being bitten by animals abroad – most frequently in Asia. Nobody developed the disease.

Rabies is preventable if you initiate treatment after possible exposure to the infection. In Denmark, exposure nearly always occurs following bat bites, but in recent years a limited number of persons have been bitten by dogs imported illegally from Eastern Europe.

New guidelines on rabies prophylaxis before and after exposure to possible infection

The WHO has published revised guidelines on rabies vaccination.

The main change is that now only two rabies vaccines (as opposed to previously three) are given prophylactically (pre-exposure vaccination). This means that rabies vaccination for travels can be given more rapidly and is less expensive. It may be considered whether pre-exposure vaccination should be given, even in connection with short journeys to rabies-endemic countries. Such vaccination is particularly relevant if the nature of the journey will make it difficult to reach medical treatment within few days.

Furthermore, no more than four doses of rabies vaccine (and HRIG) are recommended following possible exposure.