Travel Talk

Dog Bite in Bangkok and Rabies Vaccines

Rabies patient from the US in the 1950’s

Good day,

I was out for a leisurely jaunt last night on my way to a delicious street side fiesta of sorts a few streets from Khao San when suddenly I felt this “NIP” on my right ankle, I was like “What the….!?” and look down and there is this skidly dog looking up at me with a case of the crazies in his eyes. It wasn’t but hard but dog bites are dog bites and it was right in my right ankle / calf region. The lady I was walking with was like “no big deal” and I brushed it off. The night continued…

I woke up this morning and still thought nothing of it, it didn’t bite me hard but being the prudent gentleman that I am, I figured why not talk to a pharmacist. This one guy tried to give me the antibiotics I had for my leg and charge me 2X what I paid previously. He tried to sell me half the quantity for the price I paid for double, I told him “no thanks”. I spoke with a few people and everyone said “You should be OK”. I even “think” I’ll be okay but man, the flip side is death and that dirty dog did bite me. I realized it was time to go to a hospital and inquire about pet meds aka vaccines.

I go in and talk with the Doc, he looks it over and says I “should be OK”, he did note that there is a small opening in the skin. I said ok, that’s reassuring, what happens if I’m not ok? He said all cases end in fatality. Really? Wow, not sure if I like those odds and I could be considered a “betting man” of sorts. I even asked him what the odds of the dog having rabies are, he said it’s an epidemic in Bangkok.

After an hour so reality sunk in. This “You should be OK” stuff isn’t good enough. I’m not down with being a petri dish for rabies, thank you. Imagine suddenly coming down with the symptoms below while in the middle of Asia or anywhere for that matter. Also once the virus is fully developed there is nothing you can do. I kinda thought to myself, wonder what it would be like to know that you’re going to get lock jaw, have central nervous system failure and a whole host of unpleasant side effects before eventually dying a painful death? It was a very unsettling feeling.

Symptoms (Wiki)

The period between infection and the first flu-like symptoms is normally two to twelve weeks, but can be as long as two years. Soon after, the symptoms expand to slight or partial paralysis, cerebral dysfunction, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, agitation, abnormal behavior, paranoia, terror, hallucinations, progressing to delirium.[7] The production of large quantities of saliva and tears coupled with an inability to speak or swallow are typical during the later stages of the disease; this can result in “hydrophobia”, in which the patient has difficulty swallowing because the throat and jaw become slowly paralyzed, shows panic when presented with liquids to drink, and cannot quench his or her thirst. The disease itself was also once commonly known as hydrophobia (or aquaphobia), from this characteristic symptom.

Death almost invariably results two to ten days after the first symptoms; the few humans who are known to have survived the disease were all left with severe brain damage, with one recorded exception purportedly resulting from implementation of the Milwaukee protocol.[8] It is neurotropic in nature.

I got up and went over to the Medical clinic and told him to hook me up with the immunoglobulin treatments. One thing I will note is I was kinda floored at the price, I knew it was pricey back home, but not like this, $1000US+. Well back home it’s the PRE-EXPOSURE vaccine, this is the post exposure one. Regardless of how much it costs to manufacture, they could charge what they want, if you have been placed at risk to something that will kill you, you’ll trade it all. In fact many people who get bit in Thailand have to fork over ~50% of their annual rate, wow I almost typed “annual rage”. “Rage” is what’s called in French FYI.

If I read correctly on wiki, deaths in Thailand have dropped significantly however ~400,000 post-exposure treatments were administered and 30-40% of the samples come back positive, I don’t like those odds.

Familiar with Rabies?  Wikipedia, notice how often they mention “Thailand”.

So yeah, tomorrow I go to the Bangkok Hospital and get the post exposure immunoglobulin treatment (shot) and then some other shot. Then I get another  3 days later, 7 days later, 14 and 28. OH JOY! To think, I was only in Bangkok still because I was letting my knee get better and now that’s gone the next day I get bit by a shady and agitated stray dog. Sweet.

That said, I’m in a new guest house now, I have A/C and free wifi so who really cares if I lounge here a bit, it’s quite comfortable except for this kid that won’t stop crying and his parents who aren’t doing anything about it, I hate that.

I digress.

I’m off to eat some stuff that looks tasty while avoiding dogs. Truth be told, I do avoid dogs this was just dark and I was walking past a vendor stall and I guess I spooked him or he is raging on rabies, either way I’m getting a tour of yet another South East Asian hospital.

Tips hat,

P.S: Dogs don’t usually go after you in these countries, I was passing by one of the many stalls and I’m assuming I spooked it or something. That said, be careful what you ask for, this trip isn’t boring but going “Hospital Hopping” wasn’t really on my things to do list.

16 thoughts on “Dog Bite in Bangkok and Rabies Vaccines

  1. Hey Rob. Praying you really will be OK. It is worth the $1,000.00US. Hope you bought travel insurance. My son John wrote an informative paper for travelers called Surviving a Visit to French-Speaking West Africa. Sorry I didn’t think of telling you about it. Many of the principles are valid across the Developing Two Thirds World. Mike

  2. That sucks dude! There are alternatives to jumping into post-exposure treatment tho:
    1. Get a rabies titer test to see the levels of pre-exposure antibodies in your system. You might be safe based on the result.
    2. You can generally forgo the immunoglobulin treatment if you have had the pre-exposure vaccine. That would cut your costs of post-exposure treatment to a fraction.

    Of course i’m no doctor so you make the call. Talk to a real doc about these options. Good luck!!

  3. Hey dear… I´m sure it´s the right decision to go and get the shots rather than carrying the fear of “maybe being infected” with you for weeks and weeks! Health´s got to be number 1! especially in asia!
    Wish you all the best and take care…

  4. Just saw this post. Way to go on doing the research and making sure you don’t get rabies. I’m so glad you’re in a city with good medical care and not out in the middle of nowhere. Praying for you!! Lindsay

  5. Can you be sure to ask them how long this vaccine series will “cover” you should you get bit up the road on your various travels? signed you know you (nurse hat on again for a moment ::)) )

  6. I’m sorry you were bit. Happy to hear you had the presence of mind to get treated.

    My take away from your adventure? The knee… the rip offs.. the dogs… all of it?

    I pledge to never visit these places. Also, I will likely stay very far from you, as you have some of the shitty-est luck of all time! 🙂

    Beware falling pianos! 🙂

  7. Winter in Ottawa is just as cold and windy as you remember it.

    I’ve passed your blog onto a few friends who are traveling to Southeast Asia in the coming months and it has been incredibly well received. Really nothing else out there giving such a first hand, sensible, off the beaten path perspective on the daily. Keep up the great blogging dude and of course the best of luck with the fallout from your rabid dog incident.

  8. it’s like gretzky said: “you miss 1000% of the vaccinations you don’t take.”
    just wish I had a homeopathic cure for whiny kid, I’d invest in that. you could call it sarcasm.

  9. Thanks for the notes, just telling it like it is, someone has to. I have met lots of travelers with way worse experiences and stories. Funny how most just post pictures of beaches and the “best of times”. Met a dude from Australia today who also got bit by a dog, it happens…

    It’s all good, it’s a 1.5 / 3 rating so it’s not a high risk case. Also it happened near Khao San, most rabid dogs get picked up and killed fast as it’s highly trafficked by tourists.

    That said, we need a vaccine for ignorant parents who should of been…

    Stay well,

  10. hey…i got bitten by a dog in thailand….nice dog …collar…no sign of rabies….but like you i worried about it… was in bangkok 3 days after bite….went to snake farm….and have to say they were absolutely brilliant….they have a specialist rabies clinic… waiting in scary emergency roon….i had the post immuneglobulin and the 1st of the 5 vaccine shots…..i’m back in london now…and have found it harder to track down the vaccine,,,,in bangkok the price was ok …about £75gbp….it was 50bht for the consultation….350bht for the 1 dose of vaccine and 3,250bht for the immuneglobulin…..well worth the money…i would highly recommend anyone who has been bitten go to the snake farm in bangkok….hope your ok….its a week since my first injection and i’m having a reaction at the bite site…but according to the info they gave me…that sometimes happens…all the best chris 🙂

    1. Good call getting it done and thanks for the tip. It’s crazy how the price of pharmaceuticals change from country to country.

  11. heyy
    i was bit by a dog too but the dog is domestic dog and was born in house to a mother who is fully vaccinated…i went to the hospital Bangkok Christian and told about the dog but the doctor said to stay on safer side post exposure vaccination is better. Now i have already taken one shot but i still have 4 more shots to take…i wanted to know if it is ok to stop taking vaccination shot after the 1st shot?

  12. Hey, just came across this discussion while searching for info about rabies treatment in Bangkok, I was bitten 3 weeks ago in Sri Lanka by a stray dog and was advised by a local doctor to have rabies treatment despite a huge effort in Sri Lanka to vaccinate strays. I was out hiking in the hills when it happened so it’s probably unlikley the dog had been vaccinated. Luckily I had been vaccinated in the uk before starting my travels so the treatment was a bit less, but it’s still fairly grim. Medical treatment in government hospitals in Sri lanka is free for foreigners but they give you the bovine serum, if you want the human variety you have to buy it but it only cost me £175 (a lot less than the $1000 in Thailand). I am now in Thailand and need to have my last injection in a few days so am going to head to the snake farm based on the recommendation here. My advice to anyone reading this, don’t take any chances, rabies will kill you so better safe than sorry no matter how much the treatment costs. Be wary of all animals, particularly monkeys and street dogs. Just a nip is enough to contract the disease and it will get infected so you must get antibiotics; I have had 4 courses so far and am finally on the mend.

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