With reference to concerns over the number of rabies cases recently reported in Thailand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) would like to recommend that visitors stay vigilant and stay away from all animals, or take caution to be safe around them. If tourists do experience any unfortunate incidents; such as, being bitten, scratched or licked by any animal, they are advised to get immediate medical treatment.
Every year, especially during the summer season, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) will issue advice to the public on how to prevent common illnesses that can occur due to the heat; such as, rabies and diarrhea. This annual advice is a normal practice and so the public and travellers should not panic. Across the country, preventive measures are in place at all times to ensure good health and wellness for all.
Here’s the advice from the Department of Disease Control, MOPH, on how to ‘Protect Yourself from Rabies’.
What is rabies?
Rabies is a zoonotic potentially fatal, but preventable viral disease that causes acute encephalitis in warm-blooded animals.
Which animals can get rabies?
Any warm-blooded animal (bats, monkeys, raccoons, foxes, skunks, cattle, wolves, coyotes, dogs, mongooses (normally yellow mongoose), squirrels or cats can get rabies and present the greatest risk to humans.
How is rabies transmitted to humans?
The virus is usually present in the nerves and saliva of a symptomatic rabid animal. The route of infection is usually, but not always, by a bite. Transmission also occurs when saliva from rabid animals comes into direct contact with fresh cuts or wounds. Though transmission has been rarely documented via other routes; such as, contamination of mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, nose, and mouth), aerosol transmission, and corneal and organ transplants, rabies is not transmitted through consumption of boiled milk or cooked meat.
What are the signs and symptoms of rabies in humans?
Incubation periods as short as four days, and longer than six years, have been documented, depending on the location and severity of the inoculating wound and the amount of virus introduced. Initial rabies symptoms may be pain or a tingling sensation at the site of infection, progressing within days to symptoms of cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, confusion, agitation, abnormal behaviour, restlessness, and excessive salivation. Once a person begins to exhibit signs of the disease, survival is rare. Death almost invariably results 2 to 10 days after the first symptoms.
Animal bites and immediate post-exposure treatments
1: Immediately flush and wash the wound for a minimum of five minutes with soap and water and apply antiseptic.
2: Observe the animal – normal practice in the case being bitten by a dog – for at least 10 days for abnormal symptoms or death.
3: Consult a doctor immediately.
4: Take a full course of vaccination (even if you are not in Thailand).
How can I prevent rabies?
1: Vaccinating your pet dog, cat or any other animal that you keep against rabies as recommended by the veterinarian every year.
2: “5 Don’t” or 5 principles to prevent an animal bite:
- Don’t provoke the animal;
- Don’t tease or make the animal panic; such as, stepping on its tail or other parts of the body;
- Don’t try to separate the animals while they are fighting;
- Don’t take away the animal’s food dish or bowl while they are feeding;
- Don’t play with or deliberately hold a stray animal.
In addition, stay away from all animals. Never try to pet, handle, or feed unfamiliar animals even pets, as they may not be vaccinated against rabies and other diseases. The only way to prevent rabies (other than vaccination) is to avoid being bitten, scratched, or licked by any animal. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA)
For more information about rabies and how to be safe around animals, you may find information from the following organisations useful:
1: The World Health Organisation: Fact Sheet on Rabies
2: The Department of Disease Control, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health: Rabies Fact and Health Advice for Travellers
3: The Thai Travel Clinic, Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University: what should I do if I am bitten by a dog? & Rabies vaccine in Southeast Asia. Is it necessary?
4: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA: Health Information for Travelers to Thailand