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What is rabies?

Rabies is a deadly illness caused by a Lyssavirus that spreads to humans through close contact with the saliva of an infected animal, most often from licks, bites or scratches.

What is my risk? 

Your risk depends on several factors: your destination, the length of your trip, where you stay, your activities and your access to medical care.

Your risk is much higher if you participate in activities that put you in close contact with animals, such as cave exploration, hunting, camping, hiking, or cycling.

Travellers who will be working in close contact with animals (for example, veterinarians, animal control or wildlife workers or laboratory workers) are at higher risk.

Children are also considered at higher risk because they often play with animals, are less likely to report bites or scratches and are more likely to be bitten in the head and neck area. In many areas of the world, rabies is most common in children under the age of 15.

How is it transmitted?

What are the symptoms?

Can rabies be treated?

If you have been exposed to the virus (bitten or scratched), shots (called post-exposure prophylaxis) can be effective at preventing the disease, as long as they are received as soon as possible.

Post-exposure prophylaxis is available worldwide, but it is often difficult to obtain.

There is no specific treatment for rabies once symptoms appear.

Where is rabies a concern?

A map of the areas where rabies transmission occurs is available from the World Health Organization (WHO).


Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

1. Get vaccinated.

2. Take personal precautions to avoid contact with all animals, wild or domestic.

3. If bitten, scratched or licked on broken skin or mucous membranes, by an animal:

  1. Immediately clean the wound thoroughly by washing and flushing with soap and water for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Immediately seek medical assistance to assess your risk and discuss treatment options.
  3. When you return to Canada, see your health care provider and tell them about your exposure and any shots you may have received.
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