Background: Human coexistence with other animals can result in both intentional and unintentional contact with a variety of mammalian and non-mammalian species. International travellers are at risk for such encounters; travellers risk injury, infection and possibly death from domestic and wild animal bites, scratches, licks and other exposures. The aim of the present analysis was to understand the diversity and distribution of animal-related exposures among international travellers. Methods: Data from January 2007 through December 2018 from the GeoSentinel Surveillance Network were reviewed. Records were included if the exposure was non-migration travel with a diagnosis of an animal (dog, cat, monkey, snake or other) bite or other exposure (non-bite); records were excluded if the region of exposure was not ascertainable or if another, unrelated acute diagnosis was reported. Results: A total of 6470 animal exposures (bite or non-bite) were included. The majority (71%) occurred in Asia. Travellers to 167 countries had at least one report of an animal bite or non-bite exposure. The majority (76%) involved dogs, monkeys and cats, although a wide range of wild and domestic species were involved. Almost two-thirds (62.6%) of 4395 travellers with information available did not report a pretravel consultation with a healthcare provider. Conclusions: Minimizing bites and other animal exposures requires education (particularly during pretravel consultations) and behavioral modification. These should be supplemented by the use of pre-exposure rabies vaccination for travellers to high-risk countries (especially to those with limited access to rabies immunoglobulin), as well as encouragement of timely (in-country) post-exposure prophylaxis for rabies and Macacine alphaherpesvirus 1 (herpesvirus B) when warranted.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Travel Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2021


FundersFunder number
South African Society of Travel Medicine
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
International Society of Travel Medicine
Public Health Agency of Canada


    • Bite
    • Consultation
    • Herpesvirus B
    • Post-exposure
    • Pre-exposure
    • Prophylaxis
    • Rabies


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