“I think we will need rabies vaccination before travelling”, opined my friend Tania. This made me think about the cost and argue: “Even if we are vaccinated, we will still need further vaccination if bitten”. I convinced her for the same and we flew to our destination without being vaccinated. However, soon things went wrong! So, if you are also planning to travel, then my experience might help you make a better decision for including rabies vaccination in your checklist of travel plan.
We both were excited to have reached our destination. As planned, we went trekking early in the morning the next day and we were off onto the track. After climbing for about an hour, we halted for a while to take a break. We were trying to ease our breathlessness and then we saw a small dog standing at a distance from us.
Tania was an animal lover and had a soft corner especially for small dogs. She went and picked up the dog and started showing her affection towards it. Then she turned towards me to show her “newly found friend”. I wasn’t fond of animals as she was, so reflexively I tried to push her back. Soon after I felt a sharp pain on my hand, as the dog growled and stared at me. The puppy had attacked in self-defense and disapproval of my response!
My nerves were taken over by feelings of anguish, pain and fear. Without thinking much, I ran towards our hotel. After reaching my room, I quickly opened the tap in the bathroom and washed my injured hand with soap and water. There was no blood, but all I could think was “rabies”. In the meantime, Tania also arrived and we both went to the nearby clinic. When we met the doctor and mentioned a possible dog bite. The doctor was apprehensive in the beginning but dismissed any big risk after finding that it was just a small scratch. They wiped it with alcohol and said that I need vaccination.
But I was reluctant as there was no blood and decided to take the vaccine later. The marks did not look as scary as they looked in the beginning. However, the next day I had a pain in the hand and felt as if there was itching at the site of the bite. This time I was a bit serious and searched the symptoms of rabies on Google. The results were shocking! It seemed as if I had almost all symptoms of possible rabies. I panicked and thought I was going to die of rabies. Then we visited a professional doctor experienced in the field of rabies. He helped me calm down by saying that it’s unlikely that I had rabies. He advised me to start post exposure vaccination and followed his advice without any more hesitation.
I learnt that taking prophylactic course of rabies vaccination was a good option, which would have helped me keep my peace of mind and cause less trouble to Tania. Also, the cost may seem a bit high but one’s life and peace of mind is “priceless”.
I would also advise people travelling to rabies endemic areas to practice some precautions, especially while travelling to rural and semi-urban areas where street dogs and cats are common. Even monkeys, bears or cattle bite can also cause rabies. It’s good to practice the following precautions to stay safe:
- Talk to your doctor about your travel plan and take pre-exposure rabies vaccination, which is given in 3 shots on 0, 7, and 21 or 28th day, before travel.
- Avoid touching all animals, including wild animals and pets. Pets may not be vaccinated.
- Keep an eye on children, especially when they are around dogs, cats, and wild animals such as monkeys, bears and foxes.
If bitten or scratched by any mammal such as cats, dogs or monkeys: Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and running water for at least 15 minutes. Then apply betadine solution or alcohol on the wound and leave it open. You should go to the nearest doctor and inform that you’ve been bitten. If already vaccinated against rabies, you should provide information about the same. It is also important that you take post- exposure vaccination as per the doctor’s advice irrespective whether you have been previously vaccinated or not.