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Rabies Vaccine for Travel: What You Need to Know

What Is Rabies?

Rabies is a very serious viral disease. It is very rare in the United States but far more common in other parts of the world, causing up to 70,000 rabies-related deaths worldwide each year.

How is Rabies Spread?

The rabies virus is carried and transmitted by animals, including bats, raccoons, dogs, cats, coyotes, foxes and other mammals. Humans can be infected with the virus if they are bitten by an animal with rabies.

Symptoms of Rabies

Immediately after infection, there are no symptoms other than pain and irritation at the site of the bite. But, in the weeks and months to follow, symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Seizures and death (if untreated)

Rabies Vaccine for Travel Abroad

The rabies vaccine is typically only recommended for very high-risk travelers given that it is completely preventable if medical attention is received within 7 – 10 days of an animal bite.

The rabies vaccine is made from dead virus and cannot cause rabies. It can prevent the disease from developing if given before or after infection. It may be recommended for high-risk international travelers who are likely to come in contact with animals in parts of the world where rabies is common. Pre-travel vaccination is given in 3 doses with the first being administered at least one month before the departure date, the second dose given one week later, and the third and final dose three weeks later.

The rabies vaccine may be recommended for very high-risk individuals traveling to the following destinations:

Don’t see your travel destination listed? Contact the travel medicine specialists at the UH Roe Green Center for Travel Medicine & Global Health for more information about recommended vaccines and disease prevention.