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Rabies vaccination recommended before travel to South America

January 25th, 2010
Braziliam flying bat

Brazilian Flying Bat

Travellers to South America should consider a rabies vaccination – especially for trips to Peru, Brazil and Venezuela – against dangerous bat bites, according to Germany’s Centre for Travel Medicine (CRM). Fatal cases of the disease in the region are on the rise thanks to bat bites. Risks are highest on hiking tours and cave visits. Bats commonly leave small, almost invisible, wounds. Even if someone realizes they have had contact with a bat, they might never notice the wound until it is too late.

An infection can be treated with a vaccination soon after the bite. But in many rural South American regions, timely access to vaccines is not always a possibility. Rabies is carried in the saliva of infected animals.

About one to three months usually passes between infection and the outbreak of symptoms. Once symptoms manifest, the disease is fatal.

Unlike Asia and Africa, where the disease is typically spread by dogs, bats are the main carrier in South America’s tropical regions. According to the CRM, seven children died of bat bites in Peru’s Amazon region at the start of January.

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