The $60,000 cat bite 

The cost of animal bite treatment abroad can truly sting. Tasmanian tourist Sarah Lancaster learned this the hard way after being bitten by a cat in Nicaragua which ended with a $60k bill.

With its certain fatality rate, rabies is not an illness to be played with and yet- finding emergency treatment can be hard. Without travel insurance, rabies can pose severe medical and financial risk to overseas travellers. 

sarah lancaster

Sarah with a friend pictured early on her holiday.

Sarah Lancaster hadn’t thought twice about petting the household cat in her Nicaraguan hostel.  

“I was playing with the cat and it was pawing at me when it suddenly bit my left pointer finger." 

“I was worried about the risk of rabies and no one at the hotel could tell me whether the cat had been vaccinated. So, I contacted the Australian health authorities.” 

sarah lancaster

The infamous cat

According to WHO (the World Health Organization), rabies is practically 100% fatal without pre-exposure vaccination or prompt post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Once exposed, PEP must be administered as soon as possible to prevent the virus from taking hold. With this knowledge, Sarah sought out treatment immediately. 

Unable to find treatment in Nicaragua, it became clear that Sarah would need to leave the country to receive the prophylaxis. A flight back home to Australia was ruled out it as it would have placed her outside the seven-day window for rabies treatment. After it was determined that she could receive the shots in the USA, Sarah was promptly placed on a plane to Tampa, Florida. 

“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.” 

“I was really worried. Rabies is 100% fatal, so even if there was like 0.1% chance of getting it, in my mind it was better to just eliminate that.” 


"i couldn't believe the price of the shots"

sarah lancaster

Sarah after receiving her first rabies injections in a Tampa, Florida hospital 

Within hours of her arrival, Sarah received the first of four sets of rabies shots, with the next two a few days apart. With each shot priced at $20,000 USD (and an eyewatering total of $60,000), Sarah says her treatment would have been impossible to afford without travel insurance. She received her last set of shots back home in Australia. 

“I couldn’t believe the price of the shots. I definitely would not have been able to pay out of my own pocket,” Sarah says. “Knowing that it was covered by my travel insurance put me at ease for sure.” 

Sarah says that along with the cost of her medical treatment and flights, she found the support of her travel insurer invaluable. 

“Travel insurance is definitely worth it, not only from the financial side, but also having someone to get advice from. I could talk to the team at 1Cover and just have that emotional support and contact. That was really helpful.”  

Sarah says she wouldn’t dream of foregoing travel insurance. 

“I don't think it's a risk worth playing with. It's easy to just think ‘oh well, it's just a holiday with friends, nothing's going to go wrong,’ and then this happened. I was so glad that I'd bought insurance with 1Cover.”

the importance of travel insurance

Whether it is the incredibly high price of rabies treatment, or the difficulty in obtaining it, travellers need to be aware of the risks, particular in remote and developing parts of the world. 

Sarah couldn’t have foreseen that something as simple as petting a cat could quickly escalate into a $60k ordeal. 

Under her circumstances, it was crucial that Sarah receive her treatment fast. Having travel insurance with 1Cover meant that she was able to travel to the USA to receive the prophylaxis shots that would have been well out of her budget. She also had unfettered access to 24-hour medical assistance team who could provide her with guidance every step of the way. From a financial and emotional perspective, this is yet another example of how important it is to have the right cover. 

Rabies safety tips for travellers headed 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 



Travel Insurance Award Winners 2023

mozo award