Objective To assess the awareness of the mode of rabies transmission, travel-associated rabies risk, and adequate preventive measures among French travelers.
Methods Three hundred travelers were administered a detailed questionnaire prior to pretravel advice, addressing their knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) with respect to animal-related injuries and rabies risk. Two hundred and nine were administered a post-travel questionnaire by telephone, addressing the occurrence of contacts with animals during travel.
Results Countries visited were at risk for rabies in 84.7% of the cases. Only 6.7% of travelers knew that the risk of rabies was important, while 40.1% considered it moderate or low. Dog bites appeared to be a well-known mode of transmission of rabies. By contrast, licks on broken skin or contamination of the mucous membrane with saliva (10%) and scratches (0.7%) were rarely known. Cats (23.7%), foxes (28.3%), monkeys (10.3%), and bats (5.0%) were rarely mentioned as possible rabies vectors. Only 50.7% of travelers were aware of the preventive vaccination. Approximately 57.6% of individuals traveling to rabies–endemic countries presented to the clinic less than 21 days before departing, rendering a complete preventive vaccination against rabies unfeasible. Immediate washing of the injury with water and soap was mentioned by only 3.0% of individuals and self-disinfection with antiseptics by 21.3%. Of those who traveled in a rabies-risk country, 3.8% declared that they had been attacked by animals; however, none was injured. Animal encounters were frequent with dogs (53.8%), monkeys (39.5%), bats (17.9%), and cats (15.4%).
Conclusions The KAP of French travelers with regard to travel-associated rabies risk need to be improved, particularly regarding the prevention of animal bites, postbite measures, and their urgency.