Survey of wildlife rehabilitators regarding rabies vector species

Robert L. Schopler Piedmont Wildlife Center, 605-A NC Hwy 54 W, Chapel Hill, NC 27516.

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 DVM, PhD
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Aron J. Hall Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

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Peter Cowen Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

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Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the risks associated with wildlife rehabilitation and the reemergence of wildlife rabies in North Carolina through assessment of the status of knowledge and attitudes of licensed in-state wildlife rehabilitators about rabies and rabies vector species (RVS).

Design—Questionnaire survey.

Sample Population—672 North Carolina licensed wildlife rehabilitators registered in 1999.

Procedure—Wildlife rehabilitators were contacted by mail to determine their status of knowledge and attitudes regarding rabies and RVS. The questionnaire was designed to determine rehabilitators' recent experiences with RVS, attitudes toward regulations, and knowledge of rabies virus transmission. Results were analyzed by use of the χ2 test.

Results—Questionnaire responses were provided by 210 of the 672 (31.3%) wildlife rehabilitators. Among rehabilitators, there were some inconsistencies in their knowledge base regarding rabies (eg, 25% reported that they did not know at what age animals were capable of transmitting rabies virus). Most respondents were amenable to all proposed licensing prerequisites for handling RVS (ie, record keeping, additional training, and veterinarian support). Respondents reported > 580 calls annually about rehabilitating RVS, and 80% believed at least some of their peers were rehabilitating RVS illegally.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—With the establishment of rabies as a disease that is endemic among wildlife species in North Carolina, educational efforts directed at wildlife rehabilitators (a subpopulation of residents potentially at high risk of rabies virus infection) would have direct and indirect public health benefits; similar efforts may be useful to public health communities elsewhere in the United States. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:1568–1572)

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the risks associated with wildlife rehabilitation and the reemergence of wildlife rabies in North Carolina through assessment of the status of knowledge and attitudes of licensed in-state wildlife rehabilitators about rabies and rabies vector species (RVS).

Design—Questionnaire survey.

Sample Population—672 North Carolina licensed wildlife rehabilitators registered in 1999.

Procedure—Wildlife rehabilitators were contacted by mail to determine their status of knowledge and attitudes regarding rabies and RVS. The questionnaire was designed to determine rehabilitators' recent experiences with RVS, attitudes toward regulations, and knowledge of rabies virus transmission. Results were analyzed by use of the χ2 test.

Results—Questionnaire responses were provided by 210 of the 672 (31.3%) wildlife rehabilitators. Among rehabilitators, there were some inconsistencies in their knowledge base regarding rabies (eg, 25% reported that they did not know at what age animals were capable of transmitting rabies virus). Most respondents were amenable to all proposed licensing prerequisites for handling RVS (ie, record keeping, additional training, and veterinarian support). Respondents reported > 580 calls annually about rehabilitating RVS, and 80% believed at least some of their peers were rehabilitating RVS illegally.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—With the establishment of rabies as a disease that is endemic among wildlife species in North Carolina, educational efforts directed at wildlife rehabilitators (a subpopulation of residents potentially at high risk of rabies virus infection) would have direct and indirect public health benefits; similar efforts may be useful to public health communities elsewhere in the United States. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2005;227:1568–1572)

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