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Expert warns: Always consider the risk of rabies when traveling abroad

Expert warns: Always consider the risk of rabies when traveling abroad


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Rabies is almost forgotten in this country. Germany has been free from classic wild rabies since 2008; the virus only circulates in bats. But travelers can still get infected, especially in countries in Africa and Asia. Experts from the Center for Travel Medicine (CRM) therefore advise getting vaccinated before traveling to rabies areas. According to the CRM, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 55,000 people die each year from rabies.

Contagion mostly through animal bite
According to WHO estimates, around 55,000 people die from rabies each year, most of them in India. As the Center for Travel Medicine (CRM) informs, the viral disease in humans is almost always infected by the bite of an infected animal. In most cases, this is a dog bite, but monkeys, cats or bats can also transmit the rabies virus.

Inform about the risk of infection before traveling abroad
In this country, rabies has been largely eradicated since 2008, only in wild bats does the virus still occur in individual cases. However, the disease is still ubiquitous in Africa and Asia. According to a message from the CRM, you should be informed about the risk of infection at the destination before any long-distance trip and, if necessary, get vaccinated beforehand.

No cure for rabies
Not only the bite of an animal can be dangerous. According to CRM, the disease is sometimes transmitted when the saliva of an infected animal comes into contact with broken skin or mucous membranes (eyes). If the rabies virus gets into the organism, this does not always mean an outbreak of the disease. But if it breaks out, it ends in death because there is no cure.

“Usually the incubation period is three to eight weeks. In individual cases, it can even take several years for the disease to break out, ”says Professor Dr. med. Tomas Jelinek, Scientific Director of CRM, according to the announcement. The outbreak of the disease begins in humans with pain and tingling in the area of ​​the bite site, followed by convulsions, arousal and paralysis, which lead to death within 2 weeks.

Immediate vaccination is necessary
If an infection is suspected, vaccination should be carried out as soon as possible. The vaccine contains neutralized rabies viruses, which cannot trigger the disease, but which stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against the "dangerous" viruses. "However, high-quality cell culture vaccines and immunoglobulins are only available to a very limited extent in most emerging and developing countries - most likely in hospitals with western standards in the major metropolitan regions," emphasizes Jelinek

Rapid immunization possible within a week
Accordingly, the expert advises to be completely vaccinated with a modern cell culture vaccine before traveling to the areas of spread of rabies. This applies in particular to inadequate medical care, long-term stays or possible contact with animals, for example because national parks are visited.

To achieve full protection, three doses of the vaccine are given within a few weeks. For a so-called rapid immunization, it is possible to vaccinate within a week. After contact with a possibly infected animal, the vaccine protection must be refreshed for safety reasons, informs the CRM. (No)

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