Protecting you from infected animals

Rabies is a deadly virus spread to people from the saliva of infected animals. This is usually transmitted through a bite, scratch or if an infected animal licks your eyes, nose, mouth, or an open wound.

Any mammal (an animal that suckles its young) can spread the rabies virus, such as dogs, bats, raccoons and foxes. In the UK, it’s only found in some bats.

Rabies is found throughout the world, but it’s very rare in the UK. Although the risk of getting it while travelling is small, rabies is more common in parts of Asia, Africa, Central and South America.

Once a person begins showing signs and symptoms of rabies, the disease nearly always causes death. For this reason, anyone who may have a risk of contracting rabies should receive rabies vaccinations for protection.

Every year, more than 15 million people receive a post-exposure vaccination to prevent the disease from breaking out after an animal bite. Many of those affected by human rabies are children, who are drawn to animals and often unaware of the dangers.

Before travelling, always ensure you are aware of the rabies risk at your travel destination. If you are travelling to a country with a high rabies risk, it is advised that you protect yourself with a preventative rabies vaccine.

Health Plus Pharmacy make the rabies vaccinations convenient and accessible for all the community in Cardiff and Pontypool. Book an appointment with your local Health Plus Pharmacist to keep you safe.

Check the risks of a country you’re travelling to on the TravelHealthPro website

About the RABIES vaccine

Price: £62 per dose

Doses per course: 3

Price per course: £186

Course: The course consists of one dose.

When to get vaccinated:  You should aim to get your first dose ideally five weeks before travelling to ensure you will be able to complete the course in time.

Course: The course consists of three vaccines. The second dose is given seven days after the first dose. The third dose should be given three weeks after the second dose.

Accelerated course: If you’re travelling at short notice, you may be able to have the third dose two weeks after the second.

Boosters: The rabies vaccine protects you for 10 years. If you are working with animals or are otherwise at a higher risk, more frequent boosters may be recommended.

How it is given: The rabies injection is given in the upper arm.

Side effects: The rabies vaccine can cause mild side effects such as rash, a high temperature, nausea or muscle aches.

Children: The rabies vaccine can be given can be given from birth.

Additional precautions: Avoid touching animals while abroad. If you are bitten or scratched by any animal, wash the wound and seek medical attention immediately.

Risk if you contract rabies: Rabies is usually fatal. There is no cure for rabies.

About the rabies vaccination

The rabies vaccine is used to prevent an infection prior to travelling to a high risk area. It is also used to prevent the illness from spreading to the nervous system after an animal bite. As medical treatment is not always readily available in countries with a high risk, you may need to protect yourself with a rabies injection before leaving the country.

The vaccine we use to immunise against rabies is Rabipur which provides protection against the virus. Rabipur is a vaccine containing rabies virus that has been killed. After administration of the vaccine, the immune system (the body’s natural defence system) forms antibodies to rabies viruses. These antibodies protect from infections or diseases by the virus that causes rabies. None of the components of the vaccine can cause rabies.

Rabipur can be used in individuals of all ages.

Patient information leaflet Rabipur (rabies vaccination)

Rabies vaccination schedule

The pre-exposure rabies vaccine is administered with an intramuscular injection and consists of three doses. The three doses need to be given within a specific time period, so you should begin the treatment at least one month before travelling. You will receive the second dose 7 days after the first, the third dose should be received on the 28th day. If there isn’t enough time then the third dose can be administered on the 21st day.

The rabies vaccine is given as injections into your upper arm.

Please book early before you travel, to ensure that you get the rabies vaccination.

How effective is the rabies vaccination

The vaccine is very effective - almost 100%. That is, it will stop nearly everybody who has had it getting rabies if they are bitten by an animal with rabies. The vaccine stimulates your body to make proteins called antibodies against the rabies virus. The rabies vaccine protects you for 10 years.

Who should have the rabies vaccination

You should consider being vaccinated against rabies if you’re travelling to an area of the world where rabies is common and:

  • you plan to stay for a month or more, or it’s unlikely there will be quick access to appropriate medical care
  • you plan to do activities that could put you at increased risk of exposure to animals with rabies, such as running or cycling

It takes up to 4 weeks to complete the vaccine course, so you need to start it at least 1 month before you plan to leave.

Pregnant women are advised to have the rabies vaccine if the risk of exposure to rabies is thought to be high and there’s limited access to medical care.

Use the TravelHealthPro website to find out if there’s a risk of rabies in the country you’re travelling to

People at increased risk for rabies

The rabies vaccination is also recommended for anyone at risk of being exposed to rabies through their job (paid or voluntary), such as:

  • people who regularly handle bats
  • people who handle imported animals, such as workers at animal quarantine centres
  • laboratory workers who handle rabies samples
  • veterinarians

If you think this applies to you, speak to your employer or occupational health provider. If you regularly handle bats in a voluntary role, speak to a GP or local Health Plus Pharmacists about the rabies vaccine.

Who cannot have the rabies vaccine

You should not have the vaccine if you have had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to it or any of its ingredients in the past.

Extra precautions when travelling abroad

You should avoid touching animals while abroad and always seek medical help if you have been bitten. Although rabies is most commonly caught from dogs, the illness can be transmitted by all animals which carry the virus, including bats.

If you notice any bites or scratches after being in contact with an animal, wash the wound carefully and seek advice at a local hospital. If you are travelling with children, please ensure they are aware that they must not touch any animals.

Avoiding travel to a rabies risk area

If you have a contraindication to the rabies vaccine or the risk of serious side effects is high, and there is a significant risk of contracting rabies on your trip you are likely to be advised to cancel or change your travel plans. Healthcare practitioners are not obliged to administer rabies vaccine if they believe it unsafe to do so, or it is not required for your trip. If you have any medical conditions, it is best to seek travel advice before you book your trip.

If you have recently received the rabies vaccine and feel unwell please contact your GP or the 111 service if your GP practice is closed.

In a medical emergency, when someone is seriously ill and their life is at risk, dial 999.

Which countries are affected by rabies?

Rabies occurs in over 100 countries in the world but some countries, particularly in rural areas of Africa and Asia, are high-risk areas (see map)

Distribution of risk levels for humans contacting rabies, worldwide. 2013

Map adapted from World Health Organization. Distribution of risk levels for humans contacting rabies, worldwide. 2013.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a dangerous viral infection endemic to many countries. According to the World Health Organisation, there are over 55,000 deaths caused by rabies every year (mostly in Africa and Asia). There is no cure or treatment for rabies. Once the infection has taken hold, it is almost always lethal. If you are travelling to a country with a high rabies risk, it is advised that you protect yourself with a preventative rabies vaccine.

How serious is rabies?

Once clinical signs of rabies appear, the disease is nearly always fatal, and treatment is typically supportive. Less than 20 cases of human survival from clinical rabies have been documented. Only a few survivors had no history of pre- or postexposure prophylaxis.

What are the symptoms of rabies?

Symptoms of rabies usually take 3 to 12 weeks to appear, but they can appear after a few days or not for several months or years.

The first symptoms of rabies may be very similar to those of the flu and may last for days.

Later signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive salivation
  • Fear brought on by attempts to drink fluids because of difficulty swallowing water
  • Fear brought on by air blown on the face
  • Hallucinations
  • Insomnia
  • Partial paralysis

Once symptoms appear, rabies is almost always fatal.

Treatment for rabies

If you’ve been bitten, scratched or licked by an animal that may have rabies, a doctor will check if you need treatment.

Treatment usually involves:

  • 2 or more doses of the rabies vaccine
  • a medicine called rabies immunoglobulin, a liquid given into the wound or by injection (this is only needed if you’ve not had the rabies vaccine before or have a weakened immune system)

If treated quickly, treatment is usually very effective at preventing rabies. Rabies cannot be treated if symptoms appear.

If you had treatment while abroad, contact your GP when you get back to the UK. They can check if you need any more treatment.

Booster doses of the rabies vaccination

If you’ve been vaccinated against rabies before but you continue to be at risk (for example, through your job), you may need further “booster” doses to ensure you stay protected.

Speak to your employer or occupational health provider about the booster doses you might need.

For travellers, 1 booster dose may be considered if you were vaccinated more than a year ago and you’re travelling to a high-risk area again.

What should I do if I think a family member might have rabies?

You should get immediate medical advice if you have any of the symptoms of rabies and you have recently visited, or are still in, an area where the infection is found.

GOV.UK has information about who to contact when you need immediate medical help abroad.

If you’re already back in the UK, see your GP.

Your GP or the healthcare professional treating you will ask about your symptoms, where you have been travelling, what you did on your trip and what vaccinations you have had.

If necessary, they may carry out a blood test to see if you have an infection.

How to reduce your risk of rabies

If you’re travelling abroad, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk of getting rabies.


  •   get advice from a travel health clinic at least 8 weeks before you travel – they may recommend getting vaccinated against rabies
  •   find out where you’ll be able to get urgent medical help while abroad
  •   wash any animal bites or scratches with soap and water and get medical help immediately


  •   do not touch or go near wild or stray animals, even if they do not seem unwell (animals with rabies may not have any symptoms)
  •   do not feed any animals, including in zoos or animal sanctuaries

Which animals transmit the rabies virus?

Any mammal (an animal that suckles its young) can spread the rabies virus. The animals most likely to spread the rabies virus to people include:

Pets and farm animals

  • Cats
  • Cows
  • Dogs
  • Ferrets
  • Goats
  • Horses

Wild animals

  • Bats
  • Beavers
  • Coyotes
  • Foxes
  • Monkeys
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Woodchucks

In very rare cases, the virus has been spread to tissue and organ transplant recipients from an infected organ.

What are the side effects of the rabies vaccination?

The vaccine can cause temporary side effects. The most common rabies vaccine side effects are a mild fever, headache, muscle pain and vomiting. You may also notice a rash or redness and swelling at the site of the injection. These side effects will disappear within 2 to 3 days.

Very common side effects

(affects up to 1 in 10 people)

  • headache
  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • muscle and joint pain
  • mild pain and redness at the site of injection
  • feeling generally unwell
  • chills
  • swollen lymph nodes

Common side effects

(affects up to 1 in 100 people)

  • minor skin reactions, such as hives or a rash
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • bruising at site of injection
  • fever

The rabies vaccine is an inactivated vaccine, meaning that it does not contain the live rabies virus. This means that you cannot get rabies from the rabies vaccine.

Patient information leaflet Rabipur (rabies vaccination)

Monitoring safety of vaccines

In the UK, the safety of vaccines is monitored through the Yellow Card Scheme regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Commission on Human Medicines.

Most reactions reported through the Yellow Card Scheme have been minor, such as redness and swelling at the injection site, rashes, fever and vomiting.

Where can i get the rabies vaccination near me?

You can get the rabies vaccination and other travel vaccinations at your local Health Plus Pharmacy in Grangetown, Llandaff in Cardiff and Torfaen Pontypool, Wales.