Another incident of importation of a dog with rabies has been reported. A number of dogs have been brought home by US soldiers, and a few cases of rabies have been found. In the latest case, rabies was diagnosed in 1 of a group of 26 dogs that was flown back to the US to join returning soldiers. All customs and health regulations were followed, but rabies was diagnosed in the dog approximately 3 weeks after arrival.
This incident highlights a few things, including the fact that rabies, even in dogs, can be quite common in some areas of the world, and that movement of animals across borders may increase the risk of introducing infectious diseases. Certainly, cases such as this should not be used to say that these dogs should not be adopted. Rabies (or other serious disease) is a rare event in these situations, and the overall risks to people are minimal if proper procedures are followed. This includes making sure that all animals remain accounted for after arrival, and pursing proper diagnostic testing in the event that they show signs of illness (as was done here). The other dogs that came back with the rabid dog are being monitored. The risk of transmission from this dog to the others is quite low, since it is unlikely that the dog was able to transmit rabies 3 weeks ago, well in advance of developing signs of disease. In some cases it can be weeks to months from the time a dog (or other animal) is exposed to rabies until they become infectious to others. Presumably, people that had contact with this dog recently are now undergoing post-exposure treatment.
More information about rabies can be found on the Worms & Germs Resources page.