The simple travel mistake that cost an Aussie tourist $89k after going on holiday overseas
- Aussie traveller’s holiday ended early after medical scare
- Sarah Lancaster potentially exposed to rabies from cat bite
- Rushed to the US to get vaccinated – at a cost of $US20k each
A young Aussie tourist has narrowly avoided having to pay a whopping $89,000 medical bill after a seemingly innocuous bite from a cat left her fearing she’d caught rabies.
Tasmanian woman Sarah Lancaster was on holiday in Nicaragua when she was bitten by a cat in her hostel.
Despite her friend cleaning the wound with water, nobody in the hostel was able to verify to Ms Lancaster that the animal was vaccinated against rabies.
Fearing she had caught the deadly disease, Ms Lancaster reached out to Australian health authorities, who implored her to seek treatment.
‘I was playing with the cat and it was pawing at me when it suddenly bit my left pointer finger. It was like a scratch with a puncture wound,’ Ms Lancaster said.
‘I was really worried. Rabies is 100 per cent fatal, so even if there was like 0.1 per cent chance of getting it, in my mind it was better to just eliminate that.’
Sarah Lancaster (right) was holidaying in Nicaragua with friends when she as bitten by a cat
Ms Lancaster was bitten by this cat pictured in her hostel, potentially exposing to rabies – a disease that has a high fatality rate if not immediately treated
Rabies Safety Tips For Travellers Heading Abroad
– Enquire about rabies vaccinations at least one month before travel. Determine whether reliable health facilities can be found at your destination
– Avoid close contact with wild and domestic animals, however cute they look, particularly when travelling with young children
– Avoid feeding, petting or interacting with monkeys, even in temples or locations where this may be encouraged
– Steer clear from tourist attractions that involve animals such as cat cafés or dancing bears
– If bitten, seek medical treatment immediately, even if you have been vaccinated for rabies. Wash all bites and scratches with soap and running water
Rabies is vaccine-preventable but must be treated within seven days and before symptoms appear. Thousands of people die from the virus each year.
On the advice of health authorities, Ms Lancaster immediately abandoned her travel through Central America to find the nearest hospital that could provide treatment for the cat bite.
Failing to find any hospital with the appropriate vaccinations in Central America, her insurance company 1Cover booked her a flight to the US.
‘1Cover wanted me to get the prophylaxis as soon as possible and as this was not possible in Nicaragua they flew me and a friend to Florida where I could get the shot,’ Ms Lancaster said.
The Tampa hospital was the closest option for her to receive a post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a preventative treatment for rabies.
Ms Lancastar received the first of four set of shots within hours of arriving in the US.
But the shots came with a hefty price tag of $US20,000 each – equating to $29,839 in Australian dollars.
Ms Lancaster needed to receive the first three sets in the US before she could fly home to Australia for the final round.
In total, the rabies treatment in the US cost her $US60,000, or roughly $A89,000 on current conversion rates.
‘I couldn’t believe the price of the shots. I definitely would not have been able to pay out of my own pocket,’ she said.
Ms Lancaster (right) checked into a US hospital to receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a preventative treatment for rabies
Ms Lancaster was lucky enough to have taken out travel insurance before her trip with the entire $A89,000 bill picked up by 1Cover.
Travel insurance provider 1Cover recommends avoiding animals while overseas.
‘Talk to your doctor before you go and find out what type of vaccinations may be required as this could save you a huge amount in medical fees,’ 1Cover spokeswoman Natalie Smith warned.
‘Take precautions around animals, no matter how cute and friendly.’
‘I was really worried. Rabies is 100 per cent fatal, so even if there was like 0.1 per cent chance of getting it, in my mind it was better to just eliminate that,’ Ms Lancaster said