Potential and Actual Terrestrial Rabies Exposures in People and Domestic Animals, Upstate South Carolina, 1994-2004: A Surveillance Study

Roseveare, Catherine W.; Goolsby, W. David; Foppa, Ivo M.
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9, p1
Academic Journal
Background: Although there has been a reduction of rabies in pets and domestic animals during recent decades in the United States, rabies remains enzootic among bats and several species of terrestrial wildlife. Spillover transmission of wildlife rabies to domestic animals therefore remains a public health threat Methods: Retrospective analysis of surveillance data of reported animal incidents (bites, scratches, mucous membrane contacts) from South Carolina, 1995 to 2003, was performed to assess risk factors of potential rabies exposures among human and animal victims. Results: Dogs and cats contributed the majority (66.7% and 26.4%, respectively) of all reported incidents, with stray dogs and cats contributing 9.0% and 15.1 respectively. Current rabies vaccination status of dogs and cats (40.2% and 13.8%, respectively) were below World Health Organization recommended levels. Owned cats were half as likely to be vaccinated for rabies as dogs (OR 0.53, 95% CI 0.48, 0.58). Animal victims were primarily exposed to wildlife (83.0%), of which 27.5% were rabid. Almost 90% of confirmed rabies exposures were due to wildlife. Skunks had the highest prevalence of rabies among species of exposure animals (63.2%). Among rabid domestic animals, stray cats were the most commonly reported (47.4%). Conclusion: While the majority of reported potential rabies exposures are associated with dog and cat incidents, most rabies exposures derive from rabid wildlife. Stray cats were most frequently rabid among domestic animals. Our results underscore the need for improvement of wildlife rabies control and the reduction of interactions of domestic animals, including cats, with wildlife.


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