Incidence of Potential Rabies Exposure Among Japanese Expatriates and Travelers in Thailand

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Abstract

Background.

Rabies has become a forgotten and neglected disease in Japan. In 2006, there was a slight increase in social awareness of rabies when Japan had two reported cases of human rabies, originating in the Philippines. Although the number of Japanese either traveling or living in other Asian countries has been increasing, the exact risk of this population contracting rabies is unknown. Thus, this study utilized a questionnaire to investigate the incidence of rabies exposure, as well as the knowledge, attitude, and practice toward rabies prevention among Japanese expatriates and travelers in Thailand.

Methods.

Japanese travelers and expatriates were asked questions related to knowledge, attitude, practice toward rabies risk, and experiences of potential rabies exposure such as animal bites, licks, and scratches. Questionnaires were either completed at the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport and other tourist areas or distributed within Japanese associations in Thailand.

Results.

A total of 1,208 questionnaires from Japanese expatriates and 590 from Japanese travelers were collected and analyzed. We found high incidence rates of potential exposure events among these populations. In particular, Japanese travelers had the highest incidence rate compared to previous studies of international travelers in Thailand. While expatriates' incidence rates of animal bites, licks, and scratches were 1.7, 6.9, and 1.8/1,000 person-months, travelers have much higher incidence rates of 43.1, 136.1, and 33.0/1,000 person-months. Generally, travelers, compared to expatriates, tended to have less accurate knowledge and less often had the pre-exposure prophylaxis vaccination. Moreover, survey answers indicated that 55.0% of expatriates and 88.9% of travelers who were bitten would not seek proper treatment.

Conclusions.

Since rabies is a preventable disease as long as one has the appropriate knowledge, attitude, and practice, it is essential to promote prevention activities for the Japanese population in Thailand to avert serious consequences of this disease.

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