Livestock Rabies Can Take Many Forms

Most U.S. states reported a large animal rabies case from 2002 to 2006. However, there are eight states that reported more than 41 reported cases of rabies in horses, cattle or sheep: Texas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Virginia, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and New York.

"Rabies is a potentially deadly disease that is preventable," said Frank Hurtig, DVM, MBA, director of Veterinary Services at Merial. "These states have a higher number of rabies cases, which increase the chance of exposure, but it's important to remember that exposure to just one rabid animal could be fatal. Not just for that animal, but also for the people who interact with it."

Rabies can be transmitted from infected animals to humans through saliva. Wild animals primarily transmit the disease. Horses, cattle and sheep are all at risk for encountering infected wild animals--and contracting rabies--while in the barn or pasture. If infected, rabies is almost always fatal for both animals and humans.

Signs of rabies can vary between species. For example, cattle exhibiting the "furious" form of rabies can attack people and other animals. Horses might show evidence of agitation that could be confused with colic. On the other hand, infected animals may exhibit minimal behavioral changes in the "dumb" or paralytic form.

A single case of rabies during an event can put thousands at risk. In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notified more than 150,000 people who attended the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration of potential rabies exposure after a case was confirmed during the event.

Similarly, about 80 feedyard cattle exposed to rabies in West Virginia were euthanized this year after being exposed to infected animals. Six people exposed to the herd were required to undergo costly post-exposure treatment as a precaution.

"Rabies is a fundamental vaccine for all horses, whether competing or out on the pasture," Hurtig said. "For a small investment in vaccination, you can help protect cattle, horses and everyone at the competition or on your farm."

IMRAB Brand rabies vaccines are the choice of veterinarians worldwide with more than 400 million doses sold. IMRAB Large Animal can be used in horses, cattle, and sheep at least 3 months of age. Revaccinate cattle and horses annually and sheep one year after the first vaccination, then every three years.

Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. For more information, see

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