Preparing for the Rabies Mission: Documents, Vaccinations, Flights.

In my last posting, I told how I discovered, applied to, and was accepted for the Mission Rabies project. Well, the paperwork and preparation for a mission like this is considerable.
Before I can travel to Goa and work with the team, Mission Rabies needed a lot of documents.


Sweet, friendly street dogs in Kathmandu
Another Kathmandu angel

Veterinarians and veterinary nurses need to submit a “letter of good standing”.  To get this, I called the New York State Department of Education. They directed me to an internet site with a link to an application form.  I filled out the form, printed it, signed it, and mailed it to the state board. They mailed a letter to Mission Rabies confirming that I am a veterinarian licensed to practice in New York, in good standing.  Done.


Next, I needed proof of rabies vaccination or titer.  When I was a veterinary student, I was vaccinated against rabies before starting my senior year in the clinic.  This was in 1987. In the year 2000, while working for the ASPCA, I had my blood antibody level checked. If the level was too low, the ASPCA would pay for a booster vaccination.  My antibody level was still very high, so there was no need for a booster. Eighteen years later, I have no idea if my antibody level is still high enough to be considered protective.   However, once you become a member of Mission Rabies, they require a booster every two years. Since my last vaccine was well before September 2016, I needed another rabies vaccine regardless of my antibody level.  I went to my doctor, got the booster, and received a typhoid vaccination, on his recommendation. That rabies vaccine made my arm sore for a week.


They also require proof of up-to-date tetanus vaccination. I was given a TDAP (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine in 2016, and this vaccine confers immunity for ten years.  Not a problem.


It’s always a good idea to have travel insurance on a long overseas trip. For Mission Rabies, it’s mandatory. I’m an avid traveler.  In fact, India will be my 40th country that I’ve traveled to. However, I confess that I’ve never purchased travel insurance for any of my trips.  Pretty foolish, I will admit. I mentioned this to my friend Udi in Amsterdam, and he was incredulous. He, too, is a frequent traveler, and he makes sure he’s well-covered when he travels.  Fortunately for me, Mission Rabies offers travel insurance as part of a membership in their sister charity, WVS (Worldwide Veterinary Service). If you become a member of the WVS, you are automatically insured.  It also covers you for days not connected to the mission, if you stay beyond the end of the mission, up to 31 days total. I plan on staying for eight extra days: four and a half in New Delhi and three and a half  in Mumbai. I went ahead and joined the WVS. It’s nice to know that I’m covered for the trip, and the additional days. In fact, I purchased extra insurance, which covers emergency medical transport, just to be on the safe side.


Additional documents required for the trip are a copy of my passport page showing that there’s at least six months of time left on the passport (easy), my flight itinerary (easy), and a copy of my visa. A few years ago, Mark and I were considering traveling to India. In order to get a visa, we had to go to the embassy office here in New York.  We went, and it was a chaotic zoo there, not unlike going to the Department of Motor Vehicles. We ended up abandoning the task. Since then, India has adopted the e-visa program, in which the application is done online. You have to upload a photo of your passport page and a photo of yourself, and fill out an application. You pay by credit card.  They notify you in 72 hours as to whether your application is approved. Mine was approved in less than 48 hours.


As for my flight itinerary: if I book a flight to Goa, there’s a long layover in Mumbai. I’d end up arriving in Goa in the middle of the night, after traveling about 21 hours.  I decided, instead, to leave a day earlier. I arrive in Mumbai at 8:50 p.m. I’m going to stay overnight in Mumbai, and then take a short domestic flight to Goa the next morning, arriving at 12:30.  Much less taxing on the body. The flight to Mumbai is almost 16 hours long. Fortunately, with the flight arriving at 8:50 pm., by the time I clear customs and get to my hotel, it’ll probably be around 10:00 p.m., which is pretty close to my normal bedtime, and should minimize much of the jet lag.  




The main paperwork is done.  The countdown begins.

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