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Vaccine. 2012 Jan 5;30(2):126-33. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.11.007. Epub 2011 Nov 12.

Rabies vaccination for international travelers.

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Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire en Maladies Infectieuses et Tropicales, Hôpital Nord, AP-HM, Marseille, France.


Rabies prevention in travelers is a controversial issue. According to experts, the decision to vaccinate results from an individual risk assessment based on the duration of stay, the likelihood of engagement in at-risk activities, the age of the traveler, the rabies endemicity and access to appropriate medical care in the country of destination. However, no detailed information is available regarding the last two determinants in many regions. Twenty-two cases of rabies were reported in tourists, expatriates and migrant travelers over the last decade, including three cases following short-term travel of no more than two weeks. Studies on rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) in travelers show that overall, 0.4% (range 0.01-2.3%) of travelers have experienced an at-risk bite per month of stay in a rabies-endemic country, while 31% of expatriates and 12% of tourists were vaccinated against rabies before traveling. The main reason cited by travelers for not being vaccinated is the cost of the vaccine. The majority of patients who sustained a high risk injury was not vaccinated against rabies before traveling and were not properly treated abroad. From available studies, the following risk factors for injuries sustained from potentially rabid animals may be identified: traveling to South-East Asia, India or North Africa, young age, and traveling for tourism. The duration of travel does not appear to be a risk factor. It should be noted that "at-risk activities" have not been addressed in these studies. Detailed rabies distribution maps and information on the availability of rabies biologics are urgently needed in order to identify those travelers who need pre-travel vaccination. Meanwhile, cost-minimization of rabies pre-exposure vaccination may be achieved in several ways, notably by using the intra-dermal method of vaccination.

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