Advice for Travelers: Beware of Stray Animals

Wed Jun 06 15:09:56 EDT 2018

Signage in rural India

Global Rescue Medical Operations personnel provide medical advice to travelers every day. Our team is highly experienced in responding to Global Rescue members’ variety of medical questions. When it comes to preparing for and managing the aftermath of any number of emergency situations, Global Rescue Operations personnel have the answers.

Because Global Rescue members travel extensively – often to remote areas – Global Rescue routinely assists with animal bite cases. Our Medical Operations personnel offer these recommendations for what to do when encountering stray animals: how to behave, how to prevent bites, and how to treat bites.

As a rule, travelers should presume that all stray animals are rabid and avoid contact with them. While dogs are the largest carrier of the rabies virus worldwide, monkeys, bats, foxes, raccoons and skunks are also primary carriers of the disease.

Dog bites are very common amongst tourists, with varying risk factors for contracting the disease. The depth of the bite, number of bites, and the stage of illness of the dog are primary contributing factors. Bites to the upper body and head are most likely routes of transmission. It’s imperative to remember that once contracted, rabies is almost always deadly without prompt post-exposure vaccination.

While complete avoidance of stray dogs is best practice, travelers should remember the following:

  • Ensure that you receive prophylactic rabies vaccinations prior to travel. This substantially decreases the likelihood of infection after exposure. You will still require two post-exposure vaccinations, but will not require human rabies immune globulin, a product that is not readily available in numerous developing countries.
  • Always remain calm around stray animals and walk slowly so that they aren’t encouraged to give chase.
  • Do not bring food in the vicinity of stray dogs, especially when they’re in packs. The same holds true for monkeys.
  • If a stray dog attacks, do anything necessary to shield yourself from being bitten near the head or upper body.

If bitten, immediately wash the wound with soap and water, and seek care at the closest medical facility. The same holds true if a stray dog licks any area of broken skin, or near any mucous membranes. Unvaccinated individuals will require a series of vaccinations: one dose post-exposure, and additional doses on day 3, 7, and 14, as well as a rabies immune globulin at the same time as the first dose.

Global Rescue members should contact Global Rescue at the time of exposure so that we can coordinate post-exposure care in a timely manner.

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