Animal bites, particularly dog bites, are by far the greatest threat of human rabies on the planet. However, other animal bites can be equally as dangerous although less frequently encountered.

Rhesus monkey Image/Rudolph.A.furtado
Rhesus monkey

It’s hard to even imagine being bit by a monkey here in the US; however, in Delhi, India, 1,823 monkey bites were reported during the first 11 months of 2015, according to a Times of India report.

This should come as no surprise. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), monkey bites account for 2–21% of animal bite injuries. In India for example, two studies found monkeys to be second to dogs as the most common source of animal bite injuries.

Monkey bites are also the second most common animal bite risk to travelers after dog bites.

Of course, dog bites are a huge problem and the main problem in Delhi with some 65,000 canine bites reported in 2015 to date.

The risk for rabies is a serious problem in India. A study earlier this year shows that 160 people die every single day from the disease globally for a total of nearly 60,000 human rabies deaths.

The study finds that overwhelmingly the greatest risk of canine rabies is in the poorest countries; the death rate (deaths / 100,000 people) is highest in countries in sub-Saharan Africa, while India has the highest number of fatalities,with over 20,000 human deaths annually.The proportion of dogs vaccinated is far below that necessary to control the disease across almost all countries of Africa and Asia.

Back to monkey bites, the WHO  notes:

Communities and travelers should be informed about risks of monkey bites and prevention techniques.

Health-care providers should be educated on the appropriate management of these injuries. Health authorities and policy-makers should ensure rabies control within monkey populations, and appropriate supplies of post-exposure rabies treatment and antibiotic prophylaxis for bitten people. They should also support research initiatives directed at providing more information on the burden of monkey bites.

Rabies is an infectious viral disease that is almost always fatal following the onset of clinical signs. In more than 99% of human cases, the rabies virus is transmitted by domestic dogs. Rabies affects domestic and wild animals, and is spread to people through bites or scratches, usually via saliva.

Rabies is present on all continents with the exception of Antarctica, but more than 95% of human deaths occur in Asia and Africa.