Rabies isn’t something we give much thought to in this country since most of the animals we’re likely to come in contact with are vaccinated. But it’s not true in other parts of the world. The deadly viral infection is a real threat outside the United States.

When you’re miles away, rabies may be the farthest thing from your mind. But health experts want you to take it into consideration if your travels take you to a foreign land.

“Because not every country has the level of public health we have here. So in a lot of the developing countries, rabies is still what we call an endemic disease,” says Lee Memorial Health System pediatric infectious disease specialist Dr. Robin Churchill.

On a recent trip to Aruba, Annette Illes was given a travel warning.

“We were told not to pet the Nubian goats. The little goats that run around kind of on the northern side of the island,” says Illes.

When you’re traveling out of country, the risk isn’t limited to the wild or wild animals. While we vaccinate domestic pets, not every country does. So interacting with dogs and cats can be hazardous to your health.

“They might come up because they’re used to seeing people running around on the beach, you just kind of don’t want to be feeding them or petting them because you don’t know what disease they’re carrying,” says Illes.

The CDC website has an updated travel section called the Yellow Book which includes rabies, which has shown up on every continent except Antarctica including popular vacation getaways. So people should educate themselves on their destination.

“Some of the Caribbean Islands, Latin America, that they don’t have rabies vaccination programs in place,” says Dr. Churchill.

The safest advice is to enjoy the view without disturbing the animals.

View More Health Matters video segments at leememorial.org/healthmatters/

Lee Memorial Health System in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of medical care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For nearly a century, we've been providing our community with everything from primary care treatment to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries.

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