CDC Yellow Book 2024

Travel-Associated Infections & Diseases

Author(s): Ryan Wallace, Brett Petersen, David Shlim



Worldwide, except Antarctica
Some countries categorized as rabies virus–free are endemic for related viruses (e.g., Australian Bat Lyssavirus)


Primarily travelers with bat or dog contact (although a wide range of mammals can transmit virus)


Avoid direct animal contact and animal bites

If bitten, seek immediate medical attention and appropriate postexposure prophylaxis

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable disease


State health department; rabies@cdc.gov; or www.cdc.gov/rabies/specific_groups/hcp/ante_mortem.html

Infectious Agent

Rabies is a fatal, acute, progressive encephalomyelitis caused by neurotropic viruses in the family Rhabdoviridae, genus Lyssavirus. Numerous, diverse lyssavirus variants are found in various animal species throughout the world, all of which can cause fatal human rabies. Rabies virus is by far the most common Lyssavirus infection in humans. Tens of millions of potential human exposures and tens of thousands of deaths from rabies occur each year.


The normal and most successful mode of rabies virus transmission is via the bite of a rabid animal. Rabies virus is neurotropic; it gains access to the nervous system through exposed peripheral nerve synapses in bite wounds. The virus travels from its point of entry along peripheral nerves to the central nervous system (CNS), where viral replication increases exponentially. Rabies virus then migrates from the CNS back to the peripheral nervous system (PNS) into, among other tissues, the salivary glands. Rabies virus secreted in saliva allows the transmission cycle to repeat. Viral shedding typically occurs just days prior to onset of clinical signs in infected animals and humans; early clinical signs can be nonspecific, however, and public health professionals should conduct a thorough risk assessment to determine if medical care is indicated.

Exposure of highly innervated tissues (e.g., those in the face and hands) can increase the risk for successful infection, and exposures occurring closer to the CNS (e.g., head, neck) can potentially shorten the incubation period. In addition to saliva, rabies virus can be found in CNS and PNS tissue, and in tears. Infection from non-bite exposures (e.g., organ transplantation from infected humans) has occurred, but human-to-human transmission generally does not occur otherwise.

All mammals are believed to be susceptible to rabies virus infection, but terrestrial mesocarnivores and bats are major rabies virus reservoirs. Dogs are the main reservoir in many low- and middle-income countries, and the epidemiology of the disease differs between regions and countries. All patients with mammal bites should be medically evaluated to ascertain if rabies postexposure prophylaxis is indicated.

Bat exposure anywhere in the world is a cause for concern and an indication to consider rabies postexposure prophylaxis.


Lyssaviruses, the causative agent for rabies, have been found on all continents except Antarctica. Rabies virus is classified into 2 major genetic lineages: canine and New World bat. These 2 lineages can be further classified into rabies virus variants based on genetic differentiations and on the reservoir species in which they circulate. Regionally, different viral variants are adapted to various mammalian hosts and perpetuate in dogs and wildlife (e.g., bats, foxes, jackals, mongooses, raccoons, skunks).

Canine rabies remains enzootic in many areas of the world, including Africa, parts of Central and South America, and Asia. In addition to rabies virus, the Lyssavirus genus includes 14 other viruses that all cause rabies disease. Non–rabies lyssaviruses are found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe; although non–rabies lyssaviruses have caused human deaths, these viruses contribute relatively little to the global rabies burden compared to rabies virus.

Timely and specific information about the global occurrence of rabies is often difficult to find. Surveillance levels vary, and reporting status can change suddenly because of disease reintroduction, emergence, or disruptions in surveillance operations. The rate of rabies exposures in travelers is an estimate, at best, and might range from 16–200 per 100,000 travelers.

Clinical Presentation

After viral invasion of the PNS and then CNS, clinical illness in humans culminates in an acute, fatal encephalitis. After infection, the asymptomatic incubation period is variable, but signs and symptoms most commonly develop within several weeks to months after exposure.

Pain and paresthesia at the site of exposure are often the first symptoms of disease. The disease then progresses rapidly from a prodromal phase (fever and nonspecific, vague symptoms) to a neurologic phase characterized by anxiety, paralysis, paresis, and other signs of encephalitis. Swallowing muscle spasm can be stimulated by the sight, sound, or perception of water (hydrophobia). Delirium and convulsions can develop, followed soon thereafter by coma and death.

Approximately 80% of people with rabies will manifest with classic encephalitic disease in which fever, hydrophobia, hyperactivity, and spasms eventually progress to paralysis and coma; this progression corresponds to “furious” rabies in animals. Another 20% of people can present with paralytic rabies, in which paralysis often first involves the bitten extremity and then progresses as an ascending paralysis, ultimately leading to coma; this is the equivalent of paralytic or “dumb” rabies in animals. Once clinical signs appear, patients die quickly in the absence of intensive supportive care.


Diagnosis can be made in a patient with a compatible exposure history and a classic clinical presentation (Box 5-05). Clinical suspicion and prioritization of differential diagnoses can be complicated by variations in clinical presentation and a lack of exposure history, however. Because several weeks to months could have elapsed since exposure, and an accurate exposure history can be difficult to elicit, patients might not discuss potential rabies virus exposures with friends or family, and clinicians might not initially consider the possibility. As a result, rabies diagnosis in the United States is almost always missed at the first clinical encounter.

Definitive antemortem diagnosis requires use of specialized diagnostic methods on multiple specimens, including cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), saliva, serum, and skin biopsies taken from the nape of the neck. Because the probability of virus and antibody detection varies over the course of illness, sequential sample collection is indicated if initial testing is negative but clinical suspicion remains high. Finding rabies virus antigen or nucleic acid in any antemortem sample confirms the diagnosis.

A thorough review of all medical care provided to patients prior to sample collection is necessary to correctly interpret some diagnostic test results. Recent reports, for example, have described how human-derived products (e.g., intravenous immune globulin [IVIG]) administered to patients can be a passive source of high concentrations of donor-derived Rabies lyssavirus–neutralizing antibodies (RLNAs); in the absence of an accurate history of prior, recent IVIG administration, finding RLNAs in serum can incorrectly suggest a diagnosis of rabies. In unvaccinated encephalitic patients, however, the presence of rabies virus–neutralizing antibodies (particularly in CSF samples) confirms the diagnosis. See more information on diagnostic testing.

Rabies is a nationally notifiable disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is designated as the national rabies reference laboratory for the United States, along with the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Rabies and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Rabies Reference Laboratory. In this capacity, CDC performs public health testing for domestic and international health agencies, for both human and animal rabies diagnoses. Clinicians submitting samples to CDC for rabies testing must first consult with program staff, obtain approval, and complete the requisite paperwork; see step-by-step instructions.

Box 5-05 World Health Organization, human rabies case definitions


A person presenting with an acute neurologic syndrome (encephalitis) dominated by forms of hyperactivity (furious rabies) or paralytic syndromes (paralytic rabies) progressing toward coma and death, usually by cardiac or respiratory failure, typically within 7–10 days after the first symptom if no intensive care is instituted.
Symptoms include any of the following: aerophobia, dysphagia, hydrophobia, nausea or vomiting, paresthesia or localized pain, localized weakness.


A case compatible with the clinical case definition.


A suspected case plus a reliable history of contact with a suspected, probable, or confirmed rabid animal.


A suspected or probable case confirmed in the laboratory.


No evidence-based “best practices” approach to treating rabies patients is available. Most cases are managed with symptomatic and palliative supportive care. Survival after the clinical phase of rabies virus infection is incredibly rare, but case reports continue to provide insight into potential therapeutic options, and experimental treatment regimens continue to be investigated. To date, early and robust production of rabies virus–neutralizing antibodies has been the primary factor associated with rare reports of survival. Rabies is still considered universally fatal for practical purposes; not getting bitten in the first place is therefore the most important prevention measure. For those who are (or who suspect they might have been) bitten by a rabid animal, urgently taking the other prevention measures described next is the only way to optimize survival.


Travelers can best prevent rabies by learning about infection risks and the need to avoid bites from mammals, especially high-risk rabies reservoir species; consulting with travel health professionals to determine whether preexposure vaccination is recommended; knowing how to prevent rabies after a bite; and knowing how to obtain postexposure prophylaxis (PEP), which might involve urgent importation of rabies biologics or travel to somewhere PEP is available. Not seeking PEP or receiving inadequate care likely will result in death from rabies. See a list of pretravel rabies precautions.

Avoid Animal Bites

Avoiding bites is truly the best prevention measure for rabies. Although rabies can be completely prevented by appropriate postexposure care, obtaining that care and worrying about its effectiveness can be nerve-racking for patients. Warn travelers going to rabies-enzootic countries about the risks for rabies exposure. Counsel them to stay away from all free-roaming mammals, including puppies and kittens, and to avoid contact with bats and other wildlife.

Children are at greater risk for rabies exposure and subsequent illness because of their inquisitive nature and inability to read behavioral cues from dogs and other animals. The smaller a child’s stature, the more likely they are to experience severe bites to high-risk areas (e.g., the head and face). Also contributing to the higher risk for children is their attraction to animals and the possibility that they might not report an exposure.

Bats & Other Wildlife

Besides rabies virus, other bat-associated pathogens include Histoplasma spp., coronaviruses, and viral hemorrhagic fever viruses (see Sec. 4, Ch. 7, Zoonotic Exposures: Bites, Stings, Scratches & Other Hazards). Educate travelers to avoid handling bats or other wildlife and to consider using personal protective equipment (PPE) before entering caves where bats are found. Many bats have tiny teeth, and the wounds they inflict might not be readily apparent. Warn travelers that any suspected or documented bite or wound from a bat should be grounds for seeking PEP.


In many low- and middle-income countries, dogs stray freely in cities; encourage travelers to remain vigilant. Inadvertently approaching puppies when the mother is near, stepping on sleeping dogs, walking into dogs, or getting too close to dogs fighting or protecting food sources can provoke biting behavior.

Travelers bitten by a dog once are almost never bitten a second time, validating the observation that with proper awareness, bites can be avoided. Scanning for dogs on the street can become second nature for experienced travelers and expatriates. Knowledgeable travelers (even those never bitten) can travel for decades without ever having a dog bite.

Nonhuman Primates

Although nonhuman primates (NHPs) are rarely rabid, they are a common source of bites, mainly on the Indian subcontinent. In most instances, wild NHPs cannot be followed up for rabies assessments, and PEP is recommended for bite victims. Awareness of this risk and simple prevention are particularly effective: advise travelers not to approach or otherwise interact with NHPs or carry food while NHPs are near, especially those that have become habituated to tourists (see Sec. 4, Ch. 7, Zoonotic Exposures: Bites, Stings, Scratches & Other Hazards).

Preexposure Prophylaxis

Preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) does not eliminate the need for additional medical attention after a rabies exposure, but it simplifies PEP (see Postexposure Prophylaxis later in this chapter). PrEP might also provide some protection when an exposure to rabies virus goes unrecognized, or PEP is otherwise delayed. Travelers who complete a recognized PrEP immunization series (see Revised Vaccine Schedule later in this chapter) or who receive full PEP are considered previously vaccinated and do not require routine boosters. Routine testing for rabies virus–neutralizing antibody is not recommended for international travelers who do not otherwise fall into the frequent or continuous risk categories (Table 5-17).

Table 5-17 Rabies preexposure prophylaxis recommendations—United States, 20221








Elevated risk for unrecognized6 and recognized7 exposures, including unusual or high-risk exposures

Often high viral concentration exposures

Could be recognized or unrecognized

Could be unusual (e.g., aerosolized virus)

People working with live rabies virus in research or vaccine production facilities

People performing testing for rabies in diagnostic laboratories


IM rabies vaccine

DOSE 1: Day 0

DOSE 2: 7 days after DOSE 1

Check titers q6 months

Provide booster for titers <0.5 IU/mL8

Elevated risk for unrecognized6 and recognized7 exposures

Typically recognized

Could be unrecognized

Unusual exposures unlikely

People with frequent bat contact9

People who perform animal necropsies

All geographic regions (domestic and international) where any rabies reservoir is present

IM rabies vaccine

DOSE 1: Day 0

DOSE 2: 7 days after DOSE 1

Check titers q2 years

Provide booster for titers <0.5 IU/mL8

Elevated risk for recognized7 exposures or sustained risk10

Exposure nearly always recognized

Exposure risk exceeds that of the general population

Duration of risk >3 years after primary 2-dose PrEP vaccine series

People who interact with animals that could be rabid11

People whose occupational or recreational activities typically involve contact with animals12

Selected travelers13

All domestic and international regions where any rabies reservoir is present
International regions with rabies virus reservoirs, particularly where rabies virus is endemic in dog populations

IM rabies vaccine

DOSE 1: Day 0

DOSE 2: 7 days after DOSE 1

One-time titer check during years 1–3 after the primary 2-dose PrEP vaccine series
Provide booster for titers <0.5 IU/mL8


Provide booster ≥21 days but <3 years after primary 2-dose PrEP vaccine series14

Elevated risk for recognized7 exposure, no sustained risk10

Exposure nearly always recognized

Exposure risk exceeds that of the general population

Duration of risk expected to be ≤3 years after primary 2-dose PrEP vaccine series

Same at-risk populations as CATEGORY 3


Risk duration ≤3 years15

Same disease biogeography as CATEGORY 3

IM rabies vaccine

DOSE 1: Day 0

DOSE 2: 7 days after DOSE 1


Low risk for exposure

Exposure uncommon

Typical resident of the United States

Not applicable



1Source: Rao AK, Briggs D, Moore SM, et al. Use of a Modified Preexposure Prophylaxis Vaccination Schedule to Prevent Human Rabies: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices—United States, 2022. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:619–27 (www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7118a2.htm).

2Exposure type and nature of work or travel are the most important variables to consider when determining a person’s risk category. Perform risk categorization on a case-by-case basis; examples provided are intended as a guide only.

3Consult local or state health departments about local disease biogeography.

4Primary immunogenicity peaks 2–4 weeks after completing the recommended primary 2-dose PrEP vaccine series. People who are immunocompetent are expected to mount an appropriate response, and checking titers is not routinely recommended. Before people with altered immunity participate in high-risk activities, confirm a rabies antibody titer ≥0.5 IU/mL ≥1 week after booster vaccination (but ideally, 2–4 weeks after completing the recommended series). Individual facilities set their own rules regarding laboratory-confirmation of acceptable antibody titers for personnel.

5Need for boosters is based on long-term immunogenicity, the ability to mount an anamnestic response to rabies virus >3 years after completion of the primary 2-dose PrEP vaccine series.

6Unrecognized exposures: exposures that a person might not know occurred (e.g., a small scratch sustained during an inconspicuous breach in personal protective equipment might go unnoticed by a laboratorian testing neural tissue from rabid animals or by a field biologist conducting ecologic studies on bats).

7Recognized exposures: bites, scratches, splashes, etc., that are unusual for a person (e.g., bat contact) or painful (e.g., raccoon bite or scratch).

8Provide a booster dose of rabies vaccine when rabies antibody titers are <0.5 IU/mL. For people who are immunocompetent, checking antibody titers to verify booster response is not recommended. For people with altered immunity, verify antibody titers ≥1 week (ideally, 2–4 weeks) after each booster dose of vaccine administered.
9Includes people who: handle bats; have regular contact with bats; enter high-density bat environments (e.g., biologists who enter bat roosts or collect suspected rabies samples); perform animal necropsies (e.g., veterinary pathologists who frequently perform necropsies on mammals suspected to have had rabies). People for whom the frequency of handling rabies virus–infected tissues is low, or the procedures performed do not involve contact with neural tissue or opening of a suspected rabid animal’s calvarium, could consider following the recommended immunization schedule for RISK CATEGORY 2 rather than RISK CATEGORY 1.

10Sustained risk: elevated risk for rabies virus exposure >3 years after the completion of the primary 2-dose PrEP vaccine series.

11Rabies virus is unlikely to persist outside a dead animal’s body for an extended time due to virus inactivation by desiccation, ultraviolet irradiation, and other factors. Risk of transmission to people who handle animal products (e.g., hunters, taxidermists) is unknown but presumed to be low (RISK CATEGORY 5); direct skin contact with saliva and neural tissue of mammals should be avoided regardless of profession.

12Includes veterinarians, technicians, animal control officers, and their students/trainees; people who handle wildlife reservoir species (e.g., wildlife biologists, rehabilitators, trappers); spelunkers.

13PrEP considerations for travelers include: (1) Will the person be participating in occupational or recreational activities that increase their risk for exposure to potentially rabid animals (particularly dogs)? and (2) Will the person have difficulty getting prompt access to safe postexposure prophylaxis (PEP)? For example, will they be in rural areas or visiting destinations where PEP is not readily available (www.cdc.gov/rabies/resources/countries-risk.html).

14Unless the recipient has altered immunity, checking titers after recommended booster doses is not indicated.

15For example, short-term hands-on animal care volunteers, or infrequent travelers with no expected high-risk travel >3 years after their primary 2-dose PrEP vaccine series.

Abbreviations: IM, intramuscular; IU, international units; PrEP, preexposure prophylaxis

Recommended Traveler Categories

Recommendations for preexposure rabies vaccination can be made for certain international traveler categories based on multiple factors: the occurrence of animal rabies in the destination country; the availability of anti-rabies biologics; the traveler’s intended activities, especially in remote areas; and the traveler’s duration of stay. A decision to receive preexposure rabies immunization might also be based on the likelihood of repeat travel to at-risk destinations or long-term travel to a high-risk destination. Consider PrEP for animal handlers, field biologists, cavers, missionaries, veterinarians, and some laboratory workers. Table 5-17 provides criteria for PrEP. Regardless of whether PrEP is administered, encourage travelers to purchase medical evacuation insurance if they are going to areas where the risk for rabies is high (see Sec. 6, Ch. 1, Travel Insurance, Travel Health Insurance & Medical Evacuation Insurance).

Revised Vaccine Schedule

In the United States, PrEP previously consisted of a series of 3 intramuscular (deltoid) injections of human diploid cell rabies vaccine (HDCV) or purified chick embryo cell (PCEC) vaccine given on days 0, 7, and 21 or 28. Based on recent changes in WHO recommendations and the availability of empirical studies, the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) reviewed its own recommendations for PrEP and approved a 2-dose preexposure regimen, given on days 0 and 7 (Table 5-18).

The advantages of the revised schedule are that it is less expensive and easier to complete prior to travel. There are no data on how long this 2-dose series provides protection, however. Because of this uncertainty, travelers with a sustained risk for rabies exposure should either have a titer drawn or receive a third dose of vaccine within 3 years of the initial series. Travelers unlikely to visit an at-risk destination after 3 years require no further titers or boosters unless they have a subsequent exposure.

Table 5-18 Preexposure immunization for rabies1






HDCV, Imovax (Sanofi)



0 and 7


PCEC, RabAvert (Novartis)



0 and 7


1People who are immunocompromised by disease or medications should postpone preexposure vaccinations and consider avoiding activities for which rabies preexposure prophylaxis is indicated during the period of expected immune compromise. If this is not possible, immunocompromised people at risk for rabies should have their antibody titers checked after vaccination.

2Every attempt should be made to adhere to recommended schedules; for most minor deviations (e.g., delays of a few days for individual doses), vaccination can be resumed as though the traveler were on schedule. Travelers with a sustained risk for rabies exposures should either have a titer drawn or receive a third dose of vaccine within 3 years of the initial series. Travelers unlikely to visit an at-risk destination after 3 years require no further titers or boosters unless they have an exposure.

Abbreviations: HDCV, human diploid cell vaccine; IM, intramuscular; PCEC, purified chick embryo cell


Vaccine Safety & Adverse Reactions

Advise travelers they might experience local reactions after vaccination (e.g., erythema, itching at the injection site, pain, swelling), or mild systemic reactions (e.g., abdominal pain, dizziness, headache, muscle aches, nausea). Approximately 6% of people receiving booster vaccinations with HDCV experience systemic hypersensitivity reactions characterized by malaise, pruritis, and urticaria. The likelihood of these reactions is less with PCEC vaccine.

Wound Management

If wounded by an animal, travelers should clean all animal bites and scratches with copious amounts of soap and water, povidone iodine, or other products with virucidal activity. Inform travelers that cleaning bite wounds immediately (or as soon as possible) substantially reduces the risk for rabies virus infection, especially when followed by timely administration of PEP. For unvaccinated patients, delay suturing any wounds for a few days. If suturing is necessary to control bleeding or for functional or cosmetic reasons, inject rabies immune globulin (RIG) into all exposed tissues before closing the wound. Use of local anesthetics is not contraindicated in wound management.

Postexposure Prophylaxis

Travelers Who Received Preexposure Prophylaxis

For previously vaccinated people, PEP consists of 2 doses of modern cell culture vaccine given 3 days apart (days 0 and 3), ideally initiated shortly after the exposure. The booster doses do not have to be the same brand as the one used for the original preexposure immunization series. RIG should not be administered to people who were previously vaccinated, because it can lead to a diminished immune response to vaccine and provides no benefit to the recipient.

Travelers Who Did Not Receive Preexposure Prophylaxis

Rabies Immune Globulin + Rabies Vaccine

For unvaccinated people, PEP consists of RIG administration (20 IU/kg for human RIG [HRIG] or 40 IU/kg for equine RIG) and a series of 4 injections of rabies vaccine over 14 days; immunocompromised patients should receive 5 doses over a 1-month period (Table 5-19). After cleaning the wound, inject as much of the dose-appropriate volume of RIG (Table 5-19) as is anatomically feasible at wound sites. The intent is to put RIG anywhere saliva might have contaminated the wounded tissue.

Once initiated, rabies PEP should not be interrupted or discontinued because of local or mild systemic reactions to the vaccine. If an adverse event occurs with one of the vaccine types, consider switching to the alternative cell culture vaccine for the remainder of the series. Antihistamines or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications taken before vaccination can help reduce mild adverse reactions in people with a history of such reactions.

Table 5-19 Postexposure immunization for rabies1







Not previously vaccinated3


20 IU/kg body weight



Infiltrate bite site (if possible)  Give remainder IM


Vaccine (HDCV or PCEC)

1.0 mL


0, 3, 7, 14 (and 28 if immunocompromised)5


Previously vaccinated6,7

Vaccine (HDCV or PCEC)

1.0 mL


0, 3


Abbreviations: HDCV, human diploid cell vaccine; IM, intramuscular; PCEC, purified chick embryo cell; RIG, rabies immune globulin

1Begin all postexposure prophylaxis with immediate, thorough cleansing of all wounds with soap and water, povidone iodine, or other substances with virucidal activity.

2Every attempt should be made to adhere to recommended schedules; for most minor deviations (e.g., delays of a few days for individual doses), vaccination can be resumed as though the traveler were on schedule. When substantial deviations occur, assess immune status by serologic testing 7–14 days after the final dose is administered.

3For people not previously vaccinated against rabies, PEP consists of both RIG and a series of rabies vaccine injections.

4Immunocompromised patients should receive 5 vaccine doses. The first 4 vaccine doses are given on the same schedule as for an immunocompetent patient, and the fifth dose is given on day 28; patient follow-up should include monitoring antibody response. For more information, see Rupprecht et al., www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5902a1.htm.

5The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 4 postexposure vaccine doses, on days 0, 3, 7, and 14, unless the patient is immunocompromised, in which case a fifth dose is given at day 28.

6Defined as preexposure immunization with HDCV or PCEC, prior postexposure prophylaxis with HDCV or PCEC, or prior vaccination with any other type of rabies vaccine and a documented history of positive rabies virus–neutralizing antibody response to that vaccination.

7RIG not recommended.


Rabies Immune Globulin: Availability & Timing

HRIG is manufactured by plasmapheresis of blood from hyperimmunized volunteers. The total quantity of commercially produced HRIG falls short of worldwide demand, and it is not available in many low- and middle-income countries. Equine RIG, purified fractions of equine RIG, and rabies monoclonal antibody products might be available in some countries where HRIG is not. Such products are preferable to no RIG.

If access to RIG is delayed but modern cell culture vaccine is available, start the vaccine series as soon as possible, and add RIG to the regimen ≤7 days after the first dose of vaccine was administered. After day 7, RIG is unlikely to provide benefit, because antibodies from the patient’s own vaccine-derived immune response should be present.

Because rabies virus can persist in tissue for a long time before invading a peripheral nerve, a previously unimmunized traveler who sustained a bite suspicious for rabies should receive full PEP, including RIG, even if a considerable length of time has passed since the initial exposure. If there is a scar, or the patient remembers where the bite occurred, an appropriate amount of RIG should be injected in the area.

Rabies Immune Globulin: Dilution

If the wound is small and on a distal extremity (e.g., a finger, toe), use clinical judgment to decide how much RIG to inject to avoid complications (e.g., ischemia) due to local distention of the digit or digits. Administer any remaining dose intramuscularly at a site distant from the site of vaccine administration. If wounds are extensive, do not exceed the dose-appropriate volume of RIG. If the indicated volume is inadequate to inject all wounds, dilute the RIG with dextrose 5% in water (D5W) to ensure sufficient volume to inject all wounds. Previous advice recommended normal saline as a diluent, but its use is incompatible with new formulations of HRIG. RIG dilution is particularly important in children whose body weight might be small in relation to the size and number of wounds.

Rabies Immune Globulin: Safety & Adverse Events

The incidence of adverse events after the use of modern equine-derived RIG is low (0.8%–6.0%), and most reactions are minor. Because such products are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, however, their use cannot be recommended unequivocally. In addition, unpurified anti-rabies serum of equine origin might still be used in some countries where neither human nor equine RIG is available.

Contraindications & Precautions

Pregnancy is not a contraindication to receiving PEP. In infants and children, the dose of HDCV or PCEC for PrEP or PEP is the same as that recommended for adults. The PEP RIG dose is based on body weight (Table 5-19).

Rabies vaccines were once manufactured from viruses grown in animal brains; some of these vaccines are still in use in low- and middle-income countries. Typically, travelers can identify brain-derived vaccines, also known as nerve tissue vaccines, if they are offered a daily large-volume injection (5 mL) for approximately 14–21 days. Because of variability in the potency in these preparations, which might limit their effectiveness, and the risk for severe adverse reactions, advise travelers to decline these vaccines and to travel to a location where acceptable vaccines and RIG are available.

Variations in Postexposure Prophylaxis

Different PEP schedules, alternative routes of administration, and other rabies vaccines besides HDCV and PCEC might be used abroad. For example, commercially available purified Vero cell rabies vaccine is an acceptable alternative, if available. Other rabies vaccines or PEP regimens could require additional prophylaxis or confirmation of adequate rabies virus–neutralizing antibody titers. Encourage travelers to take photos of the rabies PEP products they receive and to be conscious of the vaccine storage conditions and corresponding administration schedule. This information is necessary for health care providers to determine whether additional vaccines or titers are indicated. Clinicians can obtain assistance managing complicated PEP scenarios from experienced travel medicine professionals, health departments, and CDC (rabies@cdc.gov).

Health care providers are justifiably concerned about getting everything right when trying to prevent a disease that is virtually 100% fatal, leading to overconcern about small variations in the administration of rabies vaccines. Modern-day cell culture rabies vaccines are highly immunogenic, however, and postexposure rabies vaccine schedules have been developed to provide the quickest onset of endogenous antibodies, which is why these vaccines are given on such a short schedule.

Make every effort to adhere to a recognized ACIP or WHO schedule. Variations of days to weeks are unlikely to diminish the immune response to vaccination but could delay the onset of protection. Numerous schedules and routes of administration have been recognized by international health authorities and have been shown to be highly effective at preventing rabies.

CDC website: www.cdc.gov/rabies

The following authors contributed to the previous version of this chapter: Ryan M. Wallace, Brett W. Petersen, David R. Shlim

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