International SOS welcomes WHO advice on Ebola

08 August 2014 ,  —


On World Rabies Day, International SOS calls for travellers and expatriates, and their medical advisors, to assess the risk of rabies exposure posed by individual travel itineraries and consider rabies vaccination if appropriate.

Rabies is almost always fatal and can be contracted from a bite, scratch or lick by an infected animal. Children are at particular risk as they may not report such animal contact. If you have had not been vaccinated and are exposed to rabies, you will need vaccination urgently. While this vaccination is available in most cities, it is often not available in more remote areas. This means you may need to travel significant distances, quickly, to receive the vaccination, sometimes even to another country.

To reduce this stressful – and potentially dangerous – scenario, pre-travel rabies vaccination should be considered for travellers and expatriates who will be at a higher risk of rabies exposure or travelling to areas where rabies vaccination may not be available. 

International SOS is the world's leading medical and travel security risk services company, serving members in 76 countries around the world. Last year, International SOS helped over 200 people who had contact with a dog or other animal and potential exposure to rabies.  Over 90% of these cases originated in either South East Asia or India.

Dr Jonathan O’Keefe, Medical Director at International SOS, said:

“Many business travellers and expatriates do not think about pre-travel rabies vaccine. Many do not realise that the vaccine is not universally available and that urgent travel, sometimes international, may be needed to obtain the vaccination following possible exposure to rabies.”

Key Rabies facts for travellers:

  • Despite rabies being 100% preventable in humans, it causes over 55,000 deaths a year 
  • Rabies occurs in over 150 countries and territories
  • 40% of risky bites occur in children under 15 years of age
  • Pre-travel vaccination reduces the profound worry associated with an unvaccinated exposure
  • If you have had pre-travel vaccination and you are exposed to rabies, you still require some rabies shots, but less urgently
  • Rabies vaccination is particularly important for:
  • Travel to areas with a high risk of rabies
  • Travel to areas where rabies vaccination may not be readily available
  • Young children, who may not inform their parents if they have been bitten

Rabies - a global disease:

The nature of global business today means organisations are venturing into new environments, with people exposed to different risks.  Many countries have limited levels of health care infrastructure and people may be exposed to threats that are beyond their usual day-to-day experience.  Rabies exposure is one such threat.

Dr O’Keefe continued:

“As businesses continue to expand in Africa we expect to see a rise in cases from this part of the world.  Interestingly we also saw 20 cases of potential rabies exposure originate in the USA: Very few parts of the world are rabies free. Of course vaccination is readily available in the USA."

Fortunately none of the travellers we advised developed rabies, but many had sleepless nights worrying about the possibility of contracting an illness that, untreated, is 100% fatal. It is important to remember that rabies is entirely preventable with a course of vaccinations.


Notes to Editors

To see a further video explaining the risks and how travellers can protect themselves, please click here

An infographic showing the different risks and statistics around rabies is also available here. This also includes a map highlighting the more risky areas of the world.

About International SOS

International SOS is the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company. We care for clients across the globe, from more than 1000 locations in 90 countries.

Our expertise is unique: More than 11,000 employees are led by 1,400 doctors and 200 security specialists. Teams work night and day to protect our members. 

We pioneer a range of preventive programmes strengthened by our in-country expertise. We deliver unrivalled emergency assistance during critical illness, accident or civil unrest. 

We are passionate about helping clients put Duty of Care into practice. With us, multinational corporate clients, governments and NGOs can mitigate risks for their people working remotely or overseas.

Who we are, infographic