Rabies is a form of brain infection or encephalitis caused by a virus that is transmitted in the saliva of infected animals. Nepal is endemic for rabies and dogs are responsible in >96% of cases. Monkeys and other animals can also transmit rabies to humans. Therefore, any contact with an animal in Nepal that results in a wound, bite, scratch or mucous membrane exposure should lead the person to seek medical opinion as to whether rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is necessary. It is never too late to receive treatment no matter how much time has elapsed from a possible exposure since the incubation period can be very long.
In Nepal, most animal exposures to travelers occur in Kathmandu and monkey bites/scratches accounted for 43% of all exposures in tourists in a study done at CIWEC Clinic. Monkey bites are sustained most commonly at the monkey temple (Swoyambu) and in the Pashupati temple area. Contrary to popular belief, trekking in Nepal does not pose any added risk to the traveler.
Following an animal bite, wound must be washed thoroughly with soap and water to get the saliva out of the wound and an antiseptic applied. Persons who have not had rabies vaccine before, require immuno-globulin (Human Rabies Immune Globulin HRIG or Equine Rabies Immune Globulin ERIG) injection directly into the wound, and 5 injections of rabies vaccine over one month. It takes 7-10 days for antibodies to be formed after starting the vaccine series and RIG is protective during this time. For persons who have been “pre-immunized” with 3 injections of rabies vaccine, they only need 2 injections of vaccine on days 0 and 3.
Both strategies are effective at preventing rabies after an exposure. If it is more than 7 days since the vaccine was started (not since the bite occurred), then HRIG should no longer be given, as it may interfere with antibody production from the vaccine.
Summary approach to Rabies prevention:
|Person has completed a pre-exposure rabies series||Exposed to a possibly rabid animal||Two shots as booster, 3 days apart|
|Person has not had pre-exposure rabies injections||Exposed to a possibly rabid animal||Human Rabies Immune Globulin (HRIG) injected around the wound; 5 injections of rabies vaccine on days
0, 3, 7, 14, and 28
CIWEC Clinic has always made HRIG available to treat patients with animal bites in Nepal. Since HRIG is very expensive and there is world-wide shortage of HRIG lately, we recommend that most travelers to Nepal be pre-immunized. There are several acceptable rabies vaccines available around the world, and they can be used interchangeably during the same rabies treatment series, if necessary. The acceptable vaccines are all referred to as “Tissue Culture Vaccines,” and include the following: Human Diploid Cell Vaccine (HDCV); Purified Vero Cell Rabies Vaccine (PVRV); Purified Chick Embryo Vaccine (PCEC).
To avoid animal bites
Do not pet or pick up puppies, do not take in stray dogs, do not carry food while visiting temples, do not get too close to baby monkeys, and do not enter houses or temples that are guarded by dogs, unannounced.