Street dog2Rabies is a hot topic around here lately, with the recent identification of raccoon rabies in the province. The virus probably inadvertently arrived in Hamilton via a raccoon hitching a ride across the border. Intentional importation can also lead to introduction of rabies to different areas – I don’t mean intentionally importing rabies (people do strange things, but that’s pretty extreme), but importing dogs that are subsequently diagnosed with rabies.

The most recent edition of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports describes a case of canine rabies that was imported into the US, and some associated issues that we keep talking about on this site.

The short version:

  • On May 30, 2015, a group of dogs (8) and cats (27) from Egypt arrived at JFK Airport in New York. They were then sent to various animal rescue groups in several states. The next day, 4 of the dogs arrived in Virgina and were distributed to 3 foster homes.
  • On June 3, one of these 4 dogs became sick, and developed signs consistent with rabies (e.g. hypersalivation, paralysis). The dog was euthanized June 5 and rabies was confirmed.
  • An investigation of human and animal contacts ensued. Typically, animals with rabies are considered potentially infectious for a period starting 10 days prior to the onset of signs of disease. It was determined that there was contact with only 1 of the other imported dogs, a puppy that shared a crate with this dog and was collected of the streets of Cairo at the same time. However, 7 other dogs had contact with the infected dog at its new home.
  • Tracing all human contacts is cases like this is a huge challenge, since it includes people in the dog’s household, other people it might have interacted with and people at various stages of the travel and importation process. 18 people ended up getting post-exposure prophylaxis.
  • The infected dog had a rabies vaccination certificate, as did 2 of the other dogs. It was subsequently determined that the certificate had been falsified ‘to avoid exclusion of the dog from entry under CDC’s current dog importation regulations.” It doesn’t say who falsified the record and what is being done to them (hopefully something, including a bill for the thousands of dollars of post-exposure prophylaxis).

An excellent closing statement from the report:

This report underscores the current difficulties in verifying any imported dog’s rabies vaccination certificate and health status. The United States also is vulnerable to an increasing risk for rabies introduction and spread from other imported domestic animals, such as cats and ferrets. Considering the public health risk posed by importation of animals for the purposes of placing them in adoptive homes in the United States, and the current oversupply of adoptable animals already in the United States, persons and organizations involved with importing pets for the purposes of adoption should consider reevaluating, and potentially redirecting, their current efforts. Globally, animal welfare stakeholders should consider focusing their efforts on supporting local organizations that provide adoptive homes, along with health care services, for street animals in their own countries. In addition, although this report focuses on imported dogs and rabies, all animals pose a risk for transmission of zoonotic diseases (e.g., brucellosis, leishmaniasis, campylobacteriosis, leptospirosis, giardiasis, and cutaneous or visceral larva migrans). Documentation of overall health status, not just rabies vaccination, is critical to minimizing the risk from importing animals carrying zoonotic diseases.