Pretravel Advice Neglects Rabies Risk for Travelers to Tropical Countries



Background:While the risk of acquiring rabies in Europe is low, there have been a number of reports on cases of human rabies “imported” from abroad in recent years. Few studies have been conducted concerning pretravel advice for international travelers about the risk of rabies.

Methods: One-hundred and fifty German and 150 Swiss general practitioners (GPs) who give pretravel advice were interviewed to assess their awareness of the risk of rabies for travelers, and of the relevant preventive measures, using a pretested telephone interview followed by a written questionnaire with a multiple choice list. GPs were asked specifically about pretravel health advice for journeys to Thailand and Kenya.

Results: During the telephone interview a majority (76%) of the 300 GPs recommended “nothing” as a preventive measure against rabies for travelers. One or two important preventive measures were mentioned by only a few GPs. No major differences were detected between the German and the Swiss groups concerning their recommendations for rabies prevention. The 119 German and 121 Swiss GPs who returned the completed questionnaire said they would recommend the three important preventive measures in the future significantly more often than they had recommended them to their clients in the past.

Conclusions.The risk of rabies in travelers to tropical countries appears to be neglected in pretravel advice provided by Swiss and German GPs. The recommendations on travel advice published in the Swiss Bulletin of the Federal Office of Public Health (BFOPH) and in the “Deutsches Ärzteblatt” should be extended to “other specific health risks.” In Switzerland this has now been done.