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Animal Rabies (Human Exposure) in the United States

15 Jun 2015

Animal rabies with human exposure has been reported from three separate states of the United States of America.

In Rockingham County, North Carolina, health officials alerted local residents to be aware of rabies in domestic animals. The alert was issued after a colony of more than 24 feral cats were destroyed after they were exposed to rabies by a kitten in the group. The kitten became aggressive and attacked the remainder of the litter. The kitten was taken to a vet where it was tested postmortem for rabies virus. Anyone who had contact with the feral cats has been advised to come forward for rabies post-exposure treatment.

A family pet dog on St Simons Island, Glynn County, Georgia, contracted rabies after being bitten by a raccoon that tested positive for rabies virus postmortem. The dog was unvaccinated against rabies and had to be destroyed; the owners received rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. This is the second family pet to be infected with rabies in Glynn County in 2015; the first case was a dog that was bitten by a rabid fox in January.

In the last 18 months in Glynn County, there have been at least 6 potentially rabid fox exposures with humans and several other exposures with raccoons.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a bat was found hanging on the basket of a motorised wheel chair. The user of the wheel chair was unaware of the bat until it was noticed at a checkout point in a local supermarket. The bat bit the individual who removed it and the bat later tested positive for rabies. Post-exposure (PEP) treatment was administered to the individual who removed the bat and health officials have advised the owner of the wheel chair to attend for PEP as a precaution.

Advice for Travellers

Travellers must be aware that rabies virus circulates in terrestrial animals in much of the the US, (e.g. raccoons, bats and skunks) and they should avoid contact with wildlife. All animal bites should be reported and carefully assessed; post-exposure treatment is accessible.