Rabies is usually contracted from the bite of an infected animal; however the infection may be also be transmitted if mucous membranes (e.g. eyes) or exposed scratches / cuts on skin come in contact with virus-laden saliva. Therefore in a rabies-endemic area, you should immediately take appropriate action if you have been:
Appropriate action after exposure to infection is the only way to stop this potentially fatal disease developing and involves:
Travellers who have had a full course of pre exposure of vaccines still need to seek medical advice if they are bitten.
Thoroughly cleanse all bites, scratches etc, with soap and water and do not allow wounds to be stitched. Limited bleeding should be encouraged. Apply either alcohol (70% proof) or tincture or aqueous solution of iodine / povidone iodine if possible.
The incubation period for rabies can be as little as 4 days so treatment should be sought immediately. Treatment is by administration of a normal vaccination (active immunisation) and /or giving specific immunoglobulin (passive immunisation). Travellers should seek one of the modern vaccines: these can be difficult to obtain abroad and if necessary, the British Embassy or consulate should be contacted for advice/supply. Some countries are using less effective locally produced vaccines that have to be administered into the abdomen; these are best avoided if possible.
The incubation period can be as long a several years in exceptional circumstances so it is still worthwhile seeking medical advice if you were bitten in a risk area some time ago.