Are you a spelunker? What do you mean you haven’t heard of this word? Anyone who regularly conquers the the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle knows that this is a cave explorer. Why does spelunking merit mention on a travel article? Follow the logic. Spelunkers enter dark caves for fun and excitement. Many of these caves are the roosting sites of thousands of flying, furry mammals known as bats. The salivary glands of bats may be harboring the rabies virus, which can be transmitted to the spelunker with a bite. Rabies is a serious issue for international travelers who are headed to the developing world. It’s deadly serious. Rabies a a fatal neurologic disease.
Rabies must be discussed with your travel doctor before departure. The consequences of inadequate or absent protection against rabies can be devastating. If a traveler is careless about precautions against traveler’s diarrhea or sun exposure, his trip may be compromised, but his life won’t be in jeopardy. This is not the case for rabies. Fortunately, there is an effective travel vaccine available against rabies. Travelers who will be at risk should receive 3 vaccine doses on days 0, 7 and 21 or 28. Unlike other travel diseases, if a traveler has a rabies exposure, additional vaccine injections must be administered even if the individual has been vaccinated. These should be administered by a reliable travel doctor in your destination. Your travel doctor back home can provide you with contact information of travel doctors abroad before you depart.
For a bat to transmit rabies to a human, there has to be a penetrating bite or contact with infected bat saliva. You can’t contract the disease through contact with bat droppings or even bat petting (not recommended!). Keep in mind that most bats are not rabid. Most human rabies throughout the world result from rabid dogs. Human rabies is not spread person to person, unless a human bite were to occur!
If you’ve read this far, you have probably learned a new power word that you can casually insert into your everyday conversations to impress your friends and colleagues. For international travelers, there is a more important word to know than spelunker. Here’s the clue for this 6 letter word.
Deadly virus from man’s best friend: __ __ __ __ __ __