Animals can look cute and cuddly, and you may want to pet them. But any animal, even if it appears to be friendly or harmless, can spread disease and may be dangerous.
While traveling, it’s best to stay away from all animals. Any animal can bite, scratch, kick, or otherwise injure you, even if you did nothing to provoke it. Animals are often frightened of humans, trying to protect their territory or their young. Some diseases cause an animal to behave aggressively toward people, even if it had previously been friendly.
Check Your Destination for Animal-Related Health Risks
Before your trip, talk to your doctor about your planned activities. Find out what vaccines, medicines, or advice you may need for your destination to help prevent animal-related diseases.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus. You can get rabies if you are bitten or scratched by an animal with rabies. It is almost always fatal if not promptly treated. In many other parts of the world, rabies is a problem, and access to treatment is limited. These areas include much of Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America. Check your destination’s page to see if rabies vaccination is recommended for you or any of your traveling companions.
Animals and Disease
When traveling, don’t pet or feed animals, even pets, as they may not be vaccinated against rabies and other diseases. Animal licks and bites can cause a bacterial infection that may require antibiotics, so seek medical attention after any contact with an animal. Also, be sure you are up-to-date on your tetanus vaccination.
Monkeys can spread rabies, Ebola, Marburg , herpes B virus, and tuberculosis. If you are traveling to places where monkeys roam freely, such as some temples in Southeast Asia, do not touch or feed the monkeys.
Rodents, such as rats and mice, can spread many diseases through bites and scratches, urine, feces, or fleas that live on them. These diseases include plague, leptospirosis, hantavirus disease, and rickettsial diseases. Avoid places where there is evidence of rodent activity such as droppings or nesting materials. Do not touch anything that may be contaminated with rodent urine or feces.
Traveling with Children
Watch young children carefully around unfamiliar animals. Children are more likely to be bitten, scratched, and seriously injured. Before travel, your child’s healthcare provider may recommend the rabies vaccine.
Act Quickly If an Animal Bites or Scratches You
- Immediately wash all bites and scratches well. Use plenty of soap and running water.
- Seek medical care immediately, even if you don’t feel sick or the wound does not look serious.
- To prevent rabies, start prophylaxis (treatment) immediately, which includes getting a series of vaccines after you have been bitten. Even if you were vaccinated against rabies before your trip, you still need to seek care and receive additional vaccine doses if you get bitten or scratched by an animal.
- Be prepared to travel back to the United States or to another area to receive treatment. Vaccination and medicine for rabies exposure is not available everywhere in the world.
If you traveled and feel sick, particularly if you have a fever, talk to a healthcare provider and tell them about your travel. Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.
If you need medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad.