International SOS offers advice on World Rabies Day

28 September 2012 ,  —


On World Rabies Day, International SOS offers advice to holiday-makers and business travellers on the importance of vaccination and treatment for rabies.

Rabies is almost always fatal.  It is a viral disease contracted when bitten or scratched by an infected (rabid) animal – most frequently a dog. One to three months after contracting rabies, non-specific symptoms such as fever, tingling or numbness near the bite might develop. Eventually it causes delirium, convulsions, coma and death.

Dr Jonathan O’Keeffe, Medical Director at International SOS explains: “We receive calls to our Assistance Centre related to animal bites nearly every day. In countries with endemic rabies, all animal bites and scratches and even a lick to broken skin must be taken seriously. If medical attention is not sought immediately and the patient contracts rabies; the disease is fatal. Rabies can however be prevented through appropriate vaccination.”

Rabies is found on all continents except Antarctica. Worldwide, most cases of human rabies occur in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and there are a number of high-risk countries including India, Brazil, China, Indonesia and Thailand**. Cats, monkeys, bats and foxes are also sources of infection. In Europe and North America, rabies is most often found in wild animals such as bats and foxes.

Travellers with extensive outdoor exposure may be at high risk even if the trip is brief. In particular, anyone who plans to go jogging or cycling should consider vaccination.
Assessment and prevention regimens are crucial for travellers and expats working abroad. Companies should consider rabies along with other public health threats in custom assessment and vaccination regimens*** to meet their Duty of Care obligations for travellers.

In many places, quality vaccination for rabies treatment is in short supply or not available at all. If treatment is not available, it may be necessary to evacuate a person so they can receive appropriate care.

Dr O’Keeffe continued: “We strongly recommend travellers and expatriates to get vaccinated before they go to countries where the disease is endemic. Longer-term visitors are at particular risk. So are children, who are more likely to pet stray animals. If a possible exposure to rabies occurs, treatment is needed promptly, the sooner the better.  Pre-exposure vaccination is essential to prevent the disease.”

What to do if exposed to rabies: 
If bitten, scratched or licked by an animal, seek medical advice promptly.
Immediately cleanse the wound with soap and water, and a povidone-iodine solution, if available.
Seek medical advice from your medical assistance company or another qualified source. Notify the doctor that you may have been exposed to rabies, even if you have had pre-exposure vaccination. They can then immediately assess the need for rabies post-exposure treatment. THIS CAN BE LIFE SAVING.

*** Ends ***

Notes to Editors

About the International SOS Group of Companies

The International SOS Group of Companies is in the business of saving lives, protecting your global workforce from health and security threats. Wherever you are, we deliver customised health, security risk management and wellbeing solutions to fuel your growth and productivity. In the event of extreme weather, an epidemic or a security incident, we provide an immediate response providing peace of mind. Our innovative technology and medical and security expertise focus on prevention, offering real-time, actionable insights and on-the-ground quality delivery. We help protect your people, your organisation's reputation, as well as support your compliance reporting needs. By partnering with us, organisations can fulfil their Duty of Care responsibilities, while empowering business resilience, continuity and sustainability.


Founded in 1985, the International SOS Group, headquartered in London & Singapore, is trusted by 12,000 organisations, including the majority of the Fortune 500, as well as mid-size enterprises, governments, educational institutions and NGOs. 12,000 multicultural medical, security and logistics experts stand with you to provide support & assistance from over 1,000 locations in 90 countries, 24/7, 365 days.   

To protect your workforce, we are at your fingertips:



* World Health Organisation statistics
**The Health protection agency lists all the countries where there is a high risk of rabies here.
***Health Check and Vaccination Programmes
International SOS’ Health Check and Vaccination programmes help mitigate health risks associated with business travel and long term international deployment. These services consist of pre-deployment, pre-travel and periodical medical examinations as well as inoculation programmes. Health Check and Vaccination programmes play an important role preventing sickness and injury and helping companies meet their Duty of Care obligations.