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The diagnosis of rabies encephalitis relies on awareness of the varied clinical features and eliciting a history of unusual contact with a mammal throughout the endemic area. The diagnosis is easily missed. Laboratory tests are not routine and only confirm clinical suspicion. Rabies infection carries a case fatality exceeding 99.9%. Palliation is appropriate, except for previously-vaccinated patients or those infected by American bats, for whom intensive care is probably indicated. However, as rabies vaccines are outstandingly effective, no one should die of dog-transmitted infection. Vaccines and rabies immunoglobulin are expensive and usually scarce in Asia and Africa. All travellers to dog rabies enzootic areas should be strongly encouraged to have pre-exposure immunisation before departure. There is no contraindication to vaccination but the cost can be prohibitive. Intradermal immunisation, using 0.1 ml and sharing vials of vaccine, is cheaper and is now permitted by UK regulations. Returning travellers may need post-exposure prophylaxis. Economical intradermal post-exposure vaccination is practicable and should be introduced into rural areas of Africa and Asia immediately. Eliminating rabies in dogs is now feasible and would dramatically reduce human mortality, if funds were made available. The high current economic burden of human prophylaxis would then be largely relieved.

Original publication




Journal article


Clin Med (Lond)

Publication Date





78 - 81


bat, dog, encephalitis, lyssavirus, rabies vaccine, Animals, Chiroptera, Disease Reservoirs, Dogs, Foxes, Humans, Rabies, Zoonoses