Dog bites are the main source of rabies infection and death in humans, contributing up to 99% of all cases. We conducted a contact-tracing study to evaluate the health seeking and treatment compliance behaviors of people following potential exposure to rabies in rabies endemic south Bhutan.
Using information from the rabies post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) register, animal-exposed victims who had visited five hospitals in south Bhutan between January and March 2017 were traced and further data were collected from them using a structured questionnaire. A snowballing technique was used to identify victims who did not seek PEP.The survey was conducted between April and June 2017. Logistic regression was performed to assess factors associated with PEP-seeking and compliance behavior by the victims.
Amongst 630 who reported to hospitals, 70% (444) of people could be traced and additional 8% (39) who did not seek PEP was identified through contact tracing. Therefore, a total of 483 people were interviewed. Seventy one percent (344/483) of exposure were due to animal bites of which 80% (365/455) were considered to be provoked incidents. Common reasons for not seeking health care included assumptions that risks of infection were minor if bitten by an owned or vaccinated dog. The victims who are male (OR: 0.36; 95% CI: 0.16–0.77) and educated (OR: 0.41; 95% CI: 0.17–0.96) were less likely to seek PEP, while those that experienced unprovoked bite (OR: 5.10; 95% CI: 1.20–21.77) were more likely to seek PEP in the hospitals. Overall, 82% of the victims sought PEP from the hospitals within 24 h after exposure. Eighty three percent completed the PEP course prescribed by the physician. The respondents living in urban areas (OR: 2.67; 95% CI: 1.34–5.30) were more likely to complete the prescribed PEP course than rural dwellers.
There is high risk of rabies infection in southern Bhutan. It is critical to bridge knowledge gaps and dispel existing myths which will help to improve PEP seeking and compliance behavior of people exposed to rabies infection from animals. A risk-based advocacy program is necessary to prevent dog-mediated human rabies deaths.