This article is a reprint from
Risk, Vaccinations and Prevention
By Tony Dunnell, About.com Guide
Today is World Rabies Day.
Who Needs the Rabies Vaccination for Peru?
Rabies is not generally one of the recommended vaccinations for Peru. You should, however, consult your doctor before traveling. The vaccination may be recommended for certain travelers, especially those falling into one or more of the following categories:
- Travelers whose occupations might bring them into contact with infected animals, such as veterinary workers and wildlife researchers
- Volunteer workers who expect to work in close contact with animals, be it in an animal sanctuary, national reserve, zoo or otherwise
- Adventure travelers, particularly spelunkers (cavers), who may find themselves in close proximity to infected bats
- Long-term travelers, including expats, who may be spending extended periods of time in high risk areas (particularly in regions with limited accesses to medical care)
All travelers should exercise caution when in close proximity to animals, including wild animals and strays. If you are traveling with children, tell them not to pet wild or domestic animals (especially when unsupervised). Children may not report scratches or bites, making them particularly vulnerable.
Peru is home to a large number of stray dogs. While the number of rabies infections caused by dog bites has decreased drastically in recent years, the threat of rabies through infected dog bites still exists. Most strays appear tame and docile, but that does not mean they are free from infection (a rabid dog does not always fit the image of a crazed canine foaming at the mouth).
You should be particularly cautious when handling wild animals and when in close proximity to bats. In August 2010, health workers gave the rabies vaccine to more than 500 people after a series of vampire bat attacks in the north-eastern Peruvian Amazon.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The first symptoms of rabies may be very similar to those of the flu including general weakness or discomfort, fever, or headache.” These symptoms can last for days, often accompanied by an itching sensation at the site of the bite. As the disease progresses, symptoms such as agitation, hallucinations and delirium start to appear.
Treatment of Rabies
If you are bitten by a potentially rabid animal, you should first wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. You should then seek medical attention immediately.
Certain pieces of information can help your doctor assess the potential risk of infection, including the geographical location where the bite occurred, the type of animal involved and whether the animal could potentially be captured and tested for rabies.
If you had previously received the pre-exposure rabies vaccination shots (a series of three), you will still need two more post-exposure inoculations. The pre-exposure series gives initial protection against rabies, but does not offer complete resistance to the virus.
If you did not have any pre-exposure shots, you will need all five injections after being bitten by an infected animal, as well as rabies immune globulin (RIG).
Rabies and Bringing Pets to Peru
If you want to bring a cat or dog to Peru, it will need the rabies vaccination before traveling. If you are bringing your pet to Peru from the United States or other country with a low incidence of rabies, it will typically need to be vaccinated for rabies at least 30 days (but no more than 12 months) before travel. Always check the latest regulations before traveling to Peru with a pet.