High-risk groups

Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. When symptoms appear, and without immediate treatment, rabies is fatal in 100% of cases. It can be avoided thanks to vaccination. In Belgium, the main threat still comes from the illegal importation of dogs from infected countries.

Which profiles are most at-risk?

Rabies can affect anyone but some people are particularly exposed:

  • people who are in regular contact with nature due to their leisure activities (walkers, cyclists, campers, etc.) in endemic regions (not in Belgium)
  • travellers who stay in high-risk regions for long periods 
  • expatriates living in high-risk regions
  • people exposed to a professional risk, such as forest rangers, potholers, archaeologists working in contaminated zones, taxidermists, vets or laboratory personnel that handle live rabies viruses.
  • people who are called upon professionally to be in direct contact with carnivores or other mammals in zones where rabies is rife.
  • people who are called upon professionally or for any other reason to be in direct contact with bats, including in Belgium
  • children that often play with animals in endemic regions. 

These at-risk populations can benefit from preventative vaccination

Sciensano provides epidemiological surveillance of rabies in Belgium and takes responsibility for diagnosis and treatment following exposure. It monitors the efficacy of vaccines against rabies. The Belgian Official Medicines Control Laboratory (OMCL) of Sciensano, together with the European OMCL network, is responsible for the quality control of the rabies vaccine prior to marketing.

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