Rabies postexposure management of travelers presenting to travel health clinics in Auckland and Hamilton, New Zealand.J Travel Med. 2009 Jan-Feb; 16(1):13-7.JT
Rabies is a fatal disease, and travelers going to endemic areas need to take precautions. Little is known about the rabies postexposure management of travelers from New Zealand.
A total of 459 post-travel records from October 1998 until February 2006 at two travel medicine clinics, in Auckland and Hamilton, were examined for those who reported postexposure management to animals while abroad.
Fifty-four patients were included, 48 (88.9%) were New Zealand residents and 52.0% were male. The mean age of exposed travelers was 30.4 years (SD = 15.5). There was an adult to child ratio of 5:1. The highest exposure risk group was those aged 16 to 30 years. South and Southeast Asia were the most prominent geographical regions where exposure occurred, with 45 (83.3%) of subjects being potentially exposed to rabies. Dogs were the commonest animals involved, accounting for two thirds of incidents (36; 66.7%). The commonest sites of animal exposure on the body were the thigh and lower leg (26; 48.1%) and the hand (10; 18.5%). Forty-six (85.2%) of the animal exposures were graded as World Health Organization (WHO) category III. Forty-nine (90.7%) of the travelers had not had preexposure prophylaxis. Once in New Zealand, the correct WHO postexposure prophylaxis regime was applied on 44 of 52 (84.6%) occasions. However, overall, only 25% of the sample received postexposure treatment consistent with WHO guidelines, reflecting inappropriate management abroad.
Post-travel consultations at two New Zealand travel clinics were analyzed for prophylactic rabies postexposure management. The majority were travelers aged 16 to 30 years, who sustained WHO category III exposures to the lower limb in Asia, predominantly from dogs. Few of these travelers had been immunized prior to travel, and only 25% of them received postexposure prophylaxis consistent with WHO guidelines. Thus, 75% of the study sample remains at theoretical risk of contracting rabies due to inappropriate management overseas.