Remember Rabies

There is no cure for rabies in man or animal, yet all mammals are susceptible. Since mid-June 2007, there have been reported cases of animal rabies in a number of states. To draw attention to the world-wide problem of rabies, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced World Rabies Day will be Sept. 8, 2007, to draw attention to this deadly disease.

In a brief glance for news on reported rabies cases this year, states that have reported cases in some type of domestic or wild animal include Montana, Texas, New Hampshire, Rhode Island (horse; see, North Dakota, North Carolina, New Mexico, Florida, Vermont, West Virginia, Washingon state, and Pennsylvania.

According to information from the CDC Web site (, "Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal. The vast majority of rabies cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each year occur in wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes. Domestic animals account for less than 10% of the reported rabies cases, with cats, cattle, and dogs most often reported rabid.

"Rabies virus infects the central nervous system, causing encephalopathy and ultimately death. Early symptoms of rabies in humans are nonspecific, consisting of fever, headache, and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear and may include insomnia, anxiety, confusion, slight or partial paralysis, excitation, hallucinations, agitation, hypersalivation, difficulty swallowing, and hydrophobia (fear of water). Death usually occurs within days of the onset of symptoms.

"Over the last 100 years, rabies in the United States has changed dramatically. More than 90% of all animal cases reported annually to CDC now occur in wildlife;  before 1960 the majority were in domestic animals. The principal rabies hosts today are wild carnivores and bats.. The number of rabies-related human deaths in the United States has declined from more than 100 annually at the turn of the century to one or two per year in the1990's.  Modern day prophylaxis has proven nearly 100% successful.   In the United States, human fatalities associated with rabies occur in people who fail to seek medical assistance, usually because they were unaware of their exposure."

In 2005 (the most recent year with statistics reported), there were 47 reported cases of rabies in horses.  In 2006, the government reported two human rabies fatalities, one each in Indiana and Texas.

In the 2005 report from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA), during 2005, 49 states and Puerto Rico reported 6,417 cases of rabies in nonhuman animals and 1 case in a human being to the CDC. Compared with numbers of reported cases in 2004, cases in 2005 decreased among all groups, except bats, horses, and other wild animals.
The latest Rabies Surveillance report published in JAVMA can be found at

The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians released a memo on Dec. 27, 2006, discussing rabies in the United States. That information can be found at

More information on World Rabies Day can be found at

About the Author

Kimberly S. Brown

Kimberly S. Brown was the Publisher/Editor of The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Health Care from June 2008 to March 2010, and she served in various positions at Blood-Horse Publications since 1980.

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