Volume 53, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Since the first description of rabies in an insectivorous bat in the United States in 1953, scientists have determined that there are natural cycles of rabies virus maintenance in these volant mammals that are independent of terrestrial cycles in carnivores. With the advent of dog rabies control, human rabies has become a rare disease in the United States: it has caused a total of only 25 reported deaths in this country since 1980. Although domestic animal rabies is at near historic lows, wildlife rabies continues at unprecedented levels in the United States. Rabid bats have been reported from all 48 contiguous states and annual surveillance totals for the last five years have averaged over 600. An alarming trend in the epidemiology of human rabies in the United States has been the identification of variants of rabies virus associated with bats in 12 of the 16 indigenously acquired human cases since 1980.


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