What is rabies?

Rabies is a mammalian-borne viral disease. The disease can be transmitted via a bite, scratch, lick or other mucosal contact. Typical vectors of disease are dogs and bats, but transmission by raccoons, foxes and monkeys are also common depending on the region. The disease often begins with headache, followed by various neurological symptoms such as convulsions, respiratory distress, paralysis, and coma. The disease is fatal 100% of the time.


In which countries does rabies occur?

Bat-borne rabies is common throughout the world, so a doctor should always be consulted in case of contact with a bat. Rabies transmitted by landb-based mammals is extremely rare in Europe, but widespread in  Africa, Asia and Latin America.

When and how often should I be vaccinated?

A distinction is made between vaccination before a bite (pre-exposure) and after a bite (post-exposure). Pre-exposure vaccination is only recommended if there is an increased risk of rabies. This is the case for prolonged and/or high-risk behavior when traveling to  areas affected by rabies, when working with animals on a regular basis (e.g., veterinarians), or for bat keepers. In order to have protection while traveling, 2 vaccinations are required with a minimum interval of 7 days. The protection starts working two weeks after the second vaccination and lasts for one year. If one has already received two vaccinations in the past, a single booster vaccination no earlier than 1 year after the second vaccination is sufficient for lifelong protection.

If there is suspicion of a rabies transmission (e.g. after a bite) further vaccinations are necessary. If one has already been vaccinated before the trip, two further vaccinations with an interval of three days are sufficient. If you have never been vaccinated against rabies, more than two vaccinations  and an additional passive vaccination (immunoglobulins) are necessary.

85 CHF per dose
plus consultation and injection fee

What else should I know about the rabies vaccine?

  • The first rabies vaccines were produced using nerve cells over 70 years ago. Although these vaccines led to a reduction in rabies cases worldwide, the vaccination was not without risk. For several years, these vaccines were only used in a few countries in Africa and Latin America. In Switzerland, only newer rabies vaccines are approved, which are not based on nerve cells.

  • Before 2021, the basic immunization was done with 3 vaccinations within one month, however this does not guarantee a lifelong protection. Lifelong protection is only available if there is an interval of one year between the basic immunization and the booster vaccination.

  • More information about rabies can be found on the website of the FOPH or at HealthyTravel.

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