Risks of rabies

Learn about the risks of rabies and who is most at risk.

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The risk of getting rabies

You are at increased risk of getting rabies if your work or recreational activities make you more likely to come into contact with rabid animals or the rabies virus.

You are at increased risk if you are a (an):

  • animal control officer
  • spelunker (cave explorer)
  • person who works directly with wildlife, especially:
    • bats
    • foxes
    • skunks
    • raccoons
  • animal shelter or animal rescue worker or volunteer
  • veterinarian, veterinary technologist, or other veterinary staff
  • laboratory researcher or technician who works with the rabies virus
  • hunter, trapper or taxidermist, especially in areas where rabies is circulating
  • traveller to countries and areas where rabies is transmitted more commonly by rabid dogs, and where there is limited access to adequate and safe rabies treatment (post-exposure prophylaxis)

If you are at increased risk of getting rabies through your work or recreational activities, talk to your health care provider about getting the rabies vaccine.

Who is most at risk

Children are considered at higher risk of getting rabies because they:

  • often play with animals
  • are more likely to be bitten
  • are less likely to report bites, scratches or licks

Children should always be supervised around animals and taught:

  • how to recognize animal warning signs
  • to avoid contacting strange or wild animals

The risk for travellers

Rabies occurs worldwide, except in Antarctica. Your risk depends on:

  • where you visit
  • your accommodations
  • the length of your trip
  • your access to medical care
  • your activities while you are there

Most human deaths from rabies happen in Asia and Africa, where the disease is mainly spread by dogs.

There is also a high risk of rabies in some parts of:

  • the Caribbean
  • South America
  • Central America

Rabies spread by bats has also recently been recorded in:

  • The Americas
  • Australia
  • Western Europe

A map of the areas where rabies is spread is available from the World Health Organization.

Talk to your health care provider or travel clinic before travelling to see if you should get vaccinated.

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