It’s that time of year again… time for the US annual rabies surveillance report in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (Dyer et al 2013).
- There were 6162 cases of rabies diagnosed in animals in 2012. (This is a 2.1% increase from 2011, but I don’t put much stock into changes like that when the tested cases only represent a minority of the animals with rabies.)
- The vast majority (92%) of rabid animals were wildlife, with raccoons "winning" at 32% of all animals diagnosed. They were followed by bats (27%), skunks (25%), foxes (5.5%), cats (4.2%), cattle (1.9%) and dogs (1.4%)
- A variety of other animal species were also diagnosed as rabid, including bison, llamas, bobcats, deer, a cougar, a mink, groundhogs, opossums and beavers. That just shows how any mammal is at risk. I was surprised at the number of rabid groundhogs (42 in 10 states).
- While dogs accounted for only 1.4% of cases (84 animals), a disproportionate number were found in Puerto Rico (18), with relatively large numbers also in Texas (16), North Carolina (9), Georgia (7) and Oklahoma (7). Presumably this relates to a combination of lower vaccination rates and a higher level of endemic rabies in the wildlife population in these areas. It appears that none of the rabid dogs were properly vaccinated against rabies, although vaccination history was not known for many.
- Rabid cats were mainly found in areas where raccoon rabies was common. Pennsylvania had the most rabid cats (15.6%). Other commonly affected areas were Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey and Georgia.
- The distribution of rabies virus types was pretty much as expected. Raccoon rabies virus predominated on the east coast. Skunk rabies covered the central US, overlapping with fox rabies in the southern regions. Fox rabies was also dominant in the Nevada and Arizona area, while skunk rabies predominated in central to northern California. Fox rabies dominated in Alaska and the mongoose rabies virus strain was found in (not surprisingly) Puerto Rico.
Some Canadian data were also reported:
- There were 142 confirmed rabies cases in animals, 84% of which were wildlife.
- There were 18 rabid cats and dogs, 4 livestock and one person. The person was infected with rabies while abroad, in Haiti.
- No rabid raccoons were found – something that has been the case since 2008.
And in Mexico…
- There were 12 cases of rabies in dogs, and those involved the canine rabies virus variant which is not present in Canada or the US.
Take home messages:
- Rabies… still here (and not going away any time soon).
- Vaccinate your animals.
- Stay away from wildlife.
Image: Distribution of major rabies virus variants among mesocarnivore reservoirs in the United States and Puerto Rico, 2008 to 2012. (click for source: Dyer et al. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2013)