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Once Bitten, Twice Shy???

Written in association with
Dr. Sopon of The Nation Doctor Clinic

Some people have been referred to as "Barking Mad" but, aside from the derogatory use of this term, the reality is a lot less funny.

Thailand, in common with many areas of Continental Europe and Asia in general, is not a rabies free country. This fact is further compounded by Thailand having more than it's share of unloved, uncared for stray and "temple" dogs. Successive Thai Governments, having greater human priorities to agonize over, have not introduced any measures to register domestic pet dogs nor quantify the number which have received proper canine inoculations. So it is left to caring owners to ensure that their pets are healthy and disease free. Not always easy when the efficacy of locally produced vaccines, especially against rabies, is questionable.

What can you, the visitor, do to protect yourself against the potential risk of rabies. The short answer is not to befriend or pet animals which you know nothing about. Even a friendly lick, from a rabies carrying dog (or cat), across a scratch on your body can begin a spiral of downward, and perhaps fatal, events. So it's not even necessary to be bitten - an affectionate lick is all it takes.

Fortunately medical science has provided us with a "just in case" series of inculpations which may be administered prior to travelling in rabies infected areas and, likewise, post-exposure vaccines in the unhappy event of rabies contamination. While the short answer remains as "prevention", anyone who suspects they may have been in contact with a rabies carrying animal must seek competent medical advice IMMEDIATELY.

The failure to seek such advice was demonstrated by the 1996 report of a female, American traveller who had her left hand nipped when petting a stray dog in Kathmandu. The lady failed to have a vaccination and was further remiss, after arriving in Bangkok, to obtain medical guidance. One week later, now in Sydney, she did attend a General Practitioner but, as the doctor didn't have the appropriate vaccine immediately to hand, the lady was told to come back next morning. This she didn't do and eventually travelled on to her native United States. Some 2 1/2 months later, the lady died in a Massachusetts hospital from an illness characterized by rapid neurological deterioration. After analyzing samples of saliva and serum, specialists diagnosed the lady's illness as rabies.

To recap, and in conclusion, when travelling in rabies infected areas perhaps have the "just in case" pre-exposure inoculations and certainly avoid social contacts with all dogs and cats. If the worst should happen, then seek immediate and professional medical help as it is important to receive post-exposure treatment. Awareness of potential dangers will keep you a healthier and happier visitor!

Nation Doctor Clinic, Hotline 01 952 9722

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