Perceptions of rabies risk: a survey of travellers and travel clinics from Canada, Germany, Sweden and the UK

Cinzia Marano, Melissa Moodley, Elaine Melander, Laurence De Moerlooze, Hans D Nothdurft
Journal of Travel Medicine 2019 February 1, 26 (Supplement_1): S3-S9

Background: Extensive global experience shows that rabies pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) through vaccination is effective and well tolerated, yet many travellers opt not to be vaccinated when travelling to rabies-endemic countries. Previous research has identified several factors influencing the choices travellers make to reduce the risk of rabies, including cost, time constraint and perspective on the importance of vaccination. The objectives of this study were to assess travellers' awareness of rabies and advice-seeking attitudes and to evaluate travel clinics practices regarding rabies pre-travel advice.

Methods: We surveyed individuals aged 18-65 years residing in the UK, Germany, Canada and Sweden who had travelled to rabies-endemic countries between 2013 and 2016 and defined this as the rabies visit-risk sample. The first 850 respondents from the visit-risk sample who had undertaken pre-defined at-risk activities (e.g. contact with animals during the trip) completed an additional 15-min online questionnaire and were included in the activity-risk subsample. We also interviewed travel clinic personnel using a 25-min online or phone questionnaire.

Results: The visit-risk sample included 4678 individuals. Many sought pre-travel health information online (33%) or talked to a family doctor (24%). Within the activity-risk subsample, 83% of travellers were aware of at least a few basic facts about rabies, and 84% could identify at least one correct rabies prevention measure; 49% were aware of a rabies vaccine, however, only 8% reported receiving PrEP vaccination within the past 3 years. Among 180 travel clinic respondents, 21% reported recommending PrEP against rabies to all travellers to rabies-endemic countries. Travel clinics estimated that 81% of travellers complete their travel vaccination schedules and reported sending reminders by e-mails (38%), text (38%), phone calls (37%) or by using vaccination cards (37%).

Conclusions: These findings suggest that although travellers had frequently heard of rabies, awareness of the risks of this serious infectious disease was relatively low. 5975671594001tay062media15975671594001.

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