School of Medicine, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
International Medical University, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tropical Medical Bureau, Dublin, Ireland
Introduction: Many countries endemic for the rabies virus are popular tourist destinations for travelers from developed countries. This study was designed to assess the level of awareness of rabies in a sample of travelers attending a travel medicine clinic and to assess whether the rabies-specific information provided verbally should be reinforced into a written form before the travelers complete their rabies pre-exposure prophylaxis.
Methods: During a 4-month period travelers intending to travel to rabies-endemic countries completed a questionnaire, and received standardized information on rabies risk reduction. When they received booster doses of rabies vaccine, subjects were asked if they considered themselves at risk of rabies and they were also asked to list the steps they would take if bitten by an animal.
Results: Thirty travelers participated in this study. A significant proportion of them underestimated their personal risk. This trend persisted at follow-up despite intervening education. Many travelers did not recognize trekking as a risk factor for rabies exposure. While most travelers were aware that dogs can transmit rabies, very few understood the risk posed by other warm-blooded animals. The majority of travelers expected to be safely treated in the event of developing rabies. Most travelers understood the importance of consulting a doctor following potential rabies exposure but a minority of travelers was aware of the need for immediate first-aid treatment.
Conclusion: Travelers’ knowledge of the information provided during their medical consultation appears to decay rapidly. This study points to the importance of reinforcing this advice by providing a convenient reference guide which could be inserted into the traveler’s vaccination booklet.