Rabies is a zoonotic disease prevalent throughout the world, particularly in underdeveloped countries. Although Australia is rabies-free, rabies-like lyssaviruses carried by bats pose a risk of infection. Australians travelling to and arriving from rabies-prone areas are also at risk of contracting rabies. Pre- and postexposure rabies immunisations are available in Australia and GPs should recommend these when indicated, and advise animal avoidance while travelling overseas.
Rabies is a fatal acute progressive encephalomyelitis that causes nearly 60,000 human deaths per year, mainly in resource-poor countries, due to a lack of awareness and access to safe and effective rabies vaccines and immunoglobulins. However, death from rabies is readily preventable with animal avoidance and proper pre-exposure management, and postexposure immunisation substantially enhances survival (Box 11,2).