SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Background. In 2009, 58.6 million UK residents traveled abroad. Of these, 49.5 million (84.5%) visits were to Europe and North America and 9.1 million (15.5%) were to other parts of the world. Rabies is widely distributed and continues to be a major public health issue in many developing countries. The UK is free of rabies in carnivore host species, although cases of rabies in bats have been reported. This study examined the rabies postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) service from 2000 to July 2009 at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

Methods. Medical records of patients who attended the clinic for rabies PEP were reviewed.

Results. During the study period, 139 patients were treated for possible rabies exposure. The mean age was 35 years. Thailand and Turkey each accounted for 31 (22.3%) cases. Sixty-nine (49.6%) of those seen were due to dog bites. Most injuries involved a lower limb (n = 67, 48.2%) or hands (n = 26, 18.7%). Eighty-six (61.9%) cases had initiated rabies PEP overseas, but only 3 of the 78 (3.8%) meeting UK criteria for rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) received it while overseas. Only an additional 11 patients received RIG on return to the UK; most were seen more than 7 days after initiation of PEP. The median time from exposure to receiving rabies PEP was 1 day (range: 0–1,720). Only 14 (10.1%) had received preexposure rabies vaccination.

Conclusions. The majority of travelers seeking PEP at this clinic initiated treatment overseas. Most had not received RIG abroad, when it would have been appropriate. Initiation of appropriate treatment is often delayed and is a concern to those without preexposure rabies immunization. In view of the scarcity of RIG, travelers need to be aware of the risks, consider preexposure immunization, and present early for PEP.