Is Rabies Virus Vaccine Required Before Travelling to Thailand?

Rabies Virus Vaccination

Rabies virus infection is rarely found in Europe or North America but this disease is very common in tropical Asian countries.  Thailand has no exception.  Unlike well-developed countries, the pre-exposure vaccination failed to cover more than 80% of total population of dogs and cats in Thailand.  In fact, all warm-blood animals can be infected with Rabies virus and are likely to spread the disease to other warm-blood mammals including human.  However, man’s best friend like a dog is considered to be a major cause of cross transmitting of Rabies virus to human.  According to an official report, 96% of infection cases are from both pet and stray dogs.


Rabies virus infected dog

The incubation period of rabies virus may vary ranging from 2 to 8 weeks. In some case, it would take less than 4 days to develop into a full-blown rabies symptom while few cases are reported to drag on more than a year. Infected individual is likely to develop a flu-like symptom such as high fever, muscle weakness, or a hash burn around bitten wound due to the penetration of rabies virus into the central nervous system of the body.  After a brief period of time, the symptom will transform to either furious rabies or paralytic rabies. An infected individual with furious rabies usually becomes aggressive yet excitable and may have a hallucination effect.  Most of them display a difficulty in swallowing foods or even water.  The paralytic rabies type is less common than furious rabies.  Patients suffer from paralysis but show no sign of aggressive behavior.  Patients with paralytic rabies tend to live longer than those with furious rabies.

Rabies virus vaccination

Once rabies symptom is fully developed, it becomes an incurable disease. The survival rate of infected people is close to zero. An infection of rabies virus can be prevented by properly administering a rabies virus vaccination. The pre-exposure vaccination is given to an individual before contacting with virus-infected carriers while the post-exposure vaccination is administered to those who have direct contact with virus-infected carriers.  If the wound is potent or severe, doctors may opt to provide additional rabies immunoglobulin injection to patients. Under normal circumstances, both rabies vaccine and immunoglobulin are available in any public or private hospitals nationwide.

The current epidemic of rabies virus in Thailand

Rabies virus infected dog

More and more rabies infected animals are reportedly on the rise during the past several months in Thailand.  According to the journal of veterinary medical science, rabies virus infection remains a serious trait to Thailand’s public health.  More than 60% of rabid dogs were found in domestic dogs than in stray dogs.  Only 20% of domestic dogs receive a rabies vaccination and less than 50% of individuals bitten by dogs seek out for rabies vaccination.  Therefore, traveling to Thailand is an exposure to the potential risk of being transmitted with rabies virus if not properly safeguard oneself against rabid dogs or cats.

Preventive measures for rabies virus infection  

  • Most travelers are recommended to receive the pre-exposure vaccination before traveling to Southeast Asian countries. In case of Thailand, visitors may seek out for pre-exposure prophylaxis after entering Thailand from any local hospitals nationwide.
  • When bitten or scratched by unknown dogs or cats, immediately clean up the wound with pure water and soap for at least 15 minutes. After that, apply povidone iodine or 70% ethyl alcohol to the wound for disinfection.  The research has shown that 90% of rabies virus can be eliminated with proper wound disinfection.  Thus, it is likely to lower the risk of being infected by rabies virus.  Additionally, the patient should seek a medical attention within 48 hours after being contact with rabies virus.
  • Do not make a direct contact with unknown dogs or cat. Even domestic dogs are not safe because less than 20% of them are reported to have a proper vaccination.
  • Be alert for puppies or kittens. According to the research, 1 month-old puppy or kitten is capable of transmitting rabies virus. On the top of that, the pre-exposure prophylaxis can only be given to more than 3 month-old puppies or kittens.
  • Most people mislead that the rabies virus outbreak only occurs during the summer period and often neglect to vaccinate their pets. In fact, the epidemic of rabies virus can be found all year round.  Thus, it is advisable to seek an immediate medical attention after being suspicious of rabies virus infection.
  • There are 4 guidelines to keep you away from being infected;
  1. Don’t provoke unknown dogs or cats.
  2. Don’t intervene the fight between dogs or cats.
  3. Don’t touch animals while they are being fed.
  4. Don’t stay close to suspicious animals.
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