As World Rabies Day was 28th of September, you may have heard about this disease in the media recently. If not, Sam Diab, nurse at Nomad’s Russell Square (now closed) travel clinic, explains; Rabies is a viral disease spread through saliva by the bite or scratch of an infected mammal (e.g. dogs, cats, monkeys, foxes or bats). Rabies is endemic in many countries around the world, such as Bali, India, Thailand, Nepal, Bolivia, Peru and Russia…many are popular holiday destinations. According to the World Health Organization, (WHO) 40,000-70,000 cases occur each year, and Rabies is 100% fatal.
The virus lives in the saliva of the infected animal which may not appear as the ‘rabid’ dog portrayed in movies. Treatment has to begin as soon as possible. This means preferably within the first 24 hours, with an absolute outside window of seven days after being exposed and a subsequent 5 doses of Rabies vaccinations scheduled over the course of the next 28 days.
All treatment focuses on preventing the virus from breaking out. Once an individual who has contracted Rabies begins to show symptoms, no further treatment is effective! As Immunoglobulin is an expensive product with a short shelf life, it is not always available in developing countries.
The boy had attempted to play with some puppy dogs he had found. He sustained several severe wounds and broad scratches on his legs, chest and even his face
Keeping the above in mind while Maria relates her very recent distressing experience:
A few weeks back a little boy and his father attended the Nomad clinic where Maria works. They had just returned from a holiday in Turkey, where the boy had attempted to play with some puppy dogs he had found. He sustained several severe wounds and broad scratches on his legs, chest and even his face.
The boy had been taken to a doctor in Turkey within hours of being bitten. He had been given the first of a course of regular Rabies vaccinations together with a schedule of further doses to follow when back in the UK. However, no Immunoglobulin had been administered-and the father was not even made aware of the necessity for the drug at all.
When I reported the situation to the Health Protection Agency, the doctor who handled my query was highly alarmed, as it was now the seventh day since exposure!
At this point I felt a flash of panic blushing my cheeks but…
Within 2 hours the boy was able to receive the precious Immunoglobulin in the A+E unit in Southampton General hospital.
Today, he is as lively and fit as a seven year old boy should be. What a lucky thing!
A summer holiday, or any holiday, should always be a pleasant experience. Nurses in all Nomad Travel clinics can help with a course of pre-exposure Rabies vaccinations.