This information is current as of today, December 23, 2008 at 17:14
Updated: December 22, 2008
On December 18, 2008, the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture reported to the World Organization for Animal Health an ongoing outbreak of rabies in dogs on the island of Bali, Indonesia. Rabies has been confirmed in dogs from at least two villages near popular tourist destinations on the southern tip of Bali. At this stage rabies has been identified in animals in only one district but CDC advises travelers to take precautions on the entire island.
The following activities may put travelers to Bali at higher risk for rabies:
- Working closely with animals of unknown rabies exposure or vaccination history.
- Spending a lot of time in a rural area or doing outdoor activities such as bicycling, camping, or hiking. These activities increase the risk for coming in contact with animals.
- Touching or playing with animals.
- Adopting animals with the intention of bringing them home to the United States.
Information About Rabies
A threat to both human and animal health, rabies is a rapidly progressing, deadly disease. It is almost always spread by an animal bite. Rabies can also be spread when a rabid animal’s saliva gets directly into the eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin. The primary sources of human infection worldwide are dogs and certain wildlife species, such as foxes, raccoons, mongooses, and bats.
Each year throughout the world, rabies kills approximately 50,000 people, mostly children. The risk of rabies from domestic animals is lower for people in the United States. For people who travel to other parts of the world, the risk of rabies may be higher. Therefore, all travelers should know how to protect themselves from this disease.
Staying Protected from Rabies During Travel
Follow these recommendations to protect you and your family from rabies:
Avoid animal bites.
- Avoid touching all animals, including wild animals like monkeys and pets. Unlike pets in the United States, pet dogs and cats in other countries may not have been vaccinated against rabies.
- Resist the urge to rescue animals with the intent to bring them home to the United States. Dogs and cats may be infected with rabies but not show signs until several days or weeks after you first encounter them.
- Supervise children closely, especially around dogs, cats, and wildlife such as monkeys. This is important since children are more likely to be bitten by animals, may not report the bite, and may have more severe injuries from animal bites.
- If you are traveling with your pet, supervise your pet closely and do not allow it to play with local animals, especially strays.
Act quickly if you are bitten or scratched.
- Wash the wound well with soap and water.
- See a doctor right away, even if you don’t feel sick or your wound is not serious. To prevent rabies, you may need to start a series of vaccinations immediately.
- To get vaccinated, be prepared to travel back to the United States or to another area. (Adequate vaccination for exposure to rabies is not available in all parts of the world.)
- After you return home, tell your doctor or state health department that you were bitten or scratched during travel.
Before your trip, find out if your health insurance covers health care overseas and medical evacuation. If it does not, consider buying supplemental health insurance for your trip.
Information for Health Professionals
GeoSentinel data indicate that the number of requests for rabies postexposure prophylaxis has increased among travelers returning from Bali since May 2008. GeoSentinel is a worldwide communication and data collection network for the surveillance of travel-related illness. It is operated in partnership between the International Society of Travel Medicine and CDC.
During pre-travel consultations, health professionals should stress the importance of avoiding bites and recommend that travelers to Indonesia supplement their health insurance to cover emergency evacuation or health care abroad. This advice is especially important because of the temporary unavailability of rabies pre-exposure vaccine in the United States.
For more information about rabies and travel, see the following resources:
- Rabies chapter of the book, CDC Health Information for International Travel 2008
- CDC's Rabies homepage
- Rabies and Pet Travel
For more information about how to protect yourself from other risks related to animals, see Animal-Associated Hazards.