12 September 2023

NSW Health is warning people who are travelling overseas to exercise caution around animals, following many reports of travellers requiring healthcare upon arrival home due to animal bites or scratches sustained during their travels.

Director of NSW Health’s One Health branch Keira Glasgow, said animals, particularly wild animals like monkeys, can carry severe and life-threatening diseases.

“Some animals carry infections which can be passed to people through bites, scratches or animal fluids and make people very ill. When travelling overseas, it’s very important to avoid physical contact with any animals, including dogs and cats,” Ms Glasgow said.

“So far in 2023, around 145 NSW residents have needed treatment to prevent serious disease following an animal bite or scratch overseas.

“Most of these travellers came into contact with animals in popular tourist areas of Southeast Asia, with the majority of incidents involving monkeys and dogs.

“Wild and feral animals overseas such as dogs, monkeys, cats and bats can carry a host of diseases, like rabies.

“Rabies can be transmitted by a bite or scratch from an infected animal, and while it is a rare disease, it is fatal.”

To reduce the risk of infection, travellers should:

  • Avoid contact with animals overseas, including pets and strays;
  • Avoid travel to areas where wildlife can climb on, bite or scratch you;
  • Do not feed, pat or play with wild or stray animals, and avoid carrying any food around in your bag or pockets that may attract animals;
  • Wash hands well after contact with animals;
  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat or animal products;
  • Seek urgent medical advice if you are bitten or scratched.
  • “If you are bitten or scratched always use appropriate first aid. You should wash the wound well with lots of soap and water for at least fifteen minutes and use antiseptic solution that has anti-viral properties, such as povidone-iodine, to help prevent infection. You should also seek rapid medical advice regarding the prevention of rabies, tetanus, and other viral and bacterial infections,” Ms Glasgow said.

    “If you still feel unwell after returning home from travelling, even if you have had medical treatment, please contact your GP immediately, or call Triple Zero (000) if it is an emergency.”

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