Treatments

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.

First aid following a suspicious bite

The first aid recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) is to clean the wound immediately for at least 15 minutes with:

  • soap and water
  • detergent
  • povidone-iodine 
  • or other substances that kill the rabies virus. 

After coming into contact with a suspected rabid animal, clean the skin immediately with soap and water followed by a vaccine therapy.

Sometimes immunoglobulins (anti-rabies antibodies) can also save a person’s life.  

Treatment in humans

Post-exposure treatment (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a therapeutic vaccine that must be administered within 48 hours of exposure to the risk. 

If it is administered in time, post-exposure treatment can stop the infection from reaching the nervous system.

It requires:

Only the administration of an effective treatment shortly after exposure can prevent the symptoms appearing and death. 

Treatment in animals

An animal presenting with suspected clinical signs is preferably put down or placed in quarantine.

If the animal survives during the quarantine period, rabies can be excluded given that the illness is always fatal.

What to do if your animal has been bitten by a bat?

Do not wait for the first signs of rabies, because it can take a long time for the symptoms to appear.

If your animal has been in contact with a bat, contact your vet as soon as possible.

If the cadaver of the bat is available, it can be examined for possible contamination with the virus in the National Reference Laboratory for Rabies in Sciensano.

What to do if you have been bitten or scratched by a bat?

Contact the Antirabies Center of the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM). The ITM doctors can prescribe the vaccine and draw up a vaccination schedule. They give you advice by phone on the numbers:

  • 03 / 247.66.66 (on weekdays, between 9am and 5pm)
  • 03 / 821.30.00 (after working hours and during the weekend). You will be taken to the emergency department of the UZA, where ITM and UZA doctors ensure the emergency service for infectious diseases.

Any direct contact with a bat (through biting, scratching, licking, contact with a wound) should be considered a risk as a precaution. This requires curative vaccination, unless the absence of the virus in the bat can be verified in the laboratory.

If the cadaver of the bat is available, it can be examined for possible contamination with the virus in the National Reference Laboratory for Rabies in Sciensano.

What to do if you are bitten by a dog (or another suspected rabid animal)?

Beware if:

  • you have been bitten by a dog or another suspected rabid animal abroad if you don’t know their medical history 
  • you have been bitten by a dog, cat or other imported carnivore for which the vaccination against rabies has not been confirmed. 

If in doubt, contact your GP.


 

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.

QR code

QR code for this page URL