"Risk of Potentially Rabid Animal Exposure among Foreign Travelers in SE Asia"
Published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, September 2012
We are pleased to announce that our rabies study has just been published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Disease Journal. It is the largest study ever done to determine the risk of possible exposure to rabies i.e being bitten or licked by animal among travelers in Southeast Asia. In total, we could collect up to 7,600 foreign travelers in this research.
Here is our non-technical summary:
"Rabies is a fatal disease most commonly transmitted through a bite or a lick of a rabid animal on the broken skin. Most deaths from rabies are reported in Asia and Africa where animal rabies is poorly controlled. Not only local people, but travelers in these areas are inevitably at risk also.
In this study we surveyed foreign travelers just before they departed Southeast Asia at Bangkok International Airport. We aimed to determine the risk of possible rabies exposure and their attitudes and practices related to rabies.
The risk of being bitten among 7,681 participants studied was 1.11 per 100 travelers per month and the risk of being licked was 3.12 per 100 travelers per month. Among those who were bitten, only 37.1% went to the hospital to get rabies post exposure treatment. Travelers with East Asian nationalities and who stay longer were more likely to be exposed to animals. The risk of animal exposure was not related with the reason for travel.
These findings confirm that travelers in Southeast Asia were at real risk of possible exposure to rabies. However, most of them were inadequately informed and unprepared for this life-threatening disease. Rabies prevention advice should be given to all travelers in rabies endemic area."
The main result is the underlined sentence above. That is the estimated risk, however, we could not use this number alone to consider whether travelers in Southeast Asia should vaccinated against rabies or not. Many other factors should be considered as well. For more information about rabies and rabies vaccine in travelers please read this article from our blog: Rabies vaccine in Southeast Asia. Is it necessary ? (Open in new windows)
We believe that our study could help travelers as well as heath professionals to understand the real risk of rabies that travelers may face during their trips.
This research could not be done without strong collaboration from Queen Saovabha's Memorial Institute, Thai Red Cross Society and Port Health Office, Department of Diseases Control, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand. Moreover, we have to acknowledge all reserach volunteers that help us during data collection period at Suvarnabhumi airport. Without them, we will not be able to collect up to 7,600 travelers.