What is rabies?

Rabies is a highly contagious virus which can lead to encephalitis and myelitis. It starts with symptoms typical to the flu, such as headaches, a fever, nausea, sickness and with itchiness, burning and pain at the location of the bite. This is then followed by neurological symptoms such as a fear of water, confusion, aggressiveness, problems swallowing, spasms and paralysis (respiratory paralysis). Symptoms usually appear 3 weeks to 3 months after infection, however they can appear earlier and, in certain cases, years later. There is no treatment for rabies; however the onset of the virus can be prevented with a prompt vaccination after being infected. If rabies does break out, it is almost always fatal. The rabies virus is prevalent throughout the world. The virus often appears in Africa, Asia and in parts of South America. Austria has been deemed rabies-free since 2008.

Any mammal can essentially be affected by rabies. Humans most frequently contract it from wild foxes and dogs, but also from cats, monkeys or bats. The rabies virus is excreted in the saliva and often transmitted through bites and surface wounds which come into contact with diseased animals. A vaccination following such an injury must be given as soon as possible before the virus reaches the central nervous system.

Vaccination recommendations for travellers and risk groups

The Austrian Vaccination Plan recommends the rabies vaccination as a travel vaccination for those travelling to Africa, Asia, Central America and South America, as well as for those in Austria who may come into contact with animals in their profession or encounter rabies in the laboratory, as well as for speleologists.

Vaccination schedule

First vaccination: Any time Second vaccination: 7 days after the first vaccination Third vaccination: 21 – 28 days after the first vaccination

It is also possible to follow a rapid immunisation schedule, in which the second vaccination is administered 3 days and the third vaccination 7 days after the first vaccination.

The level of protection is 100% for 2 to 5 years. Then, in each separate case, it is a question of a booster vaccination or a test to determine the level of protection provided by the vaccination.

Following a bite from an animal which is potentially infected with rabies, or after coming into contact with the saliva of such an animal, you need to act as quickly as possible:

  • Those who have had the vaccination will need 2 vaccinations with an interval of 3 days.
  • Those who have not had the vaccination will need 4 or 5 vaccinations and additional antibodies from the blood of those who have received the vaccination.

Information and consultancy service

Planning a trip to an area affected by rabies? Do you have a great deal of contact with animals from abroad? Need more information on the rabies vaccination?

We would be happy to help you decide which vaccinations are best for you!
Book an appointment online or make an appointment on the phone with the City of Vienna vaccination service: Tel. +43 1 – 1450