To describe rabies and rabies-related events occurring during 2015 in the United States.
Observational study based on passive surveillance data.
All animals submitted for rabies testing in the United States during 2015.
State and territorial public health programs provided data on animals submitted for rabies testing in 2015. Data were analyzed temporally and geographically to assess trends in domestic and sylvatic animal rabies cases.
During 2015, 50 states and Puerto Rico reported 5,508 rabid animals to the CDC, representing an 8.7% decrease from the 6,033 rabid animals reported in 2014. Of the 5,508 cases of animal rabies, 5,088 (92.4%) involved wildlife. Relative contributions by the major animal groups were as follows: 1,704 (30.9%) bats, 1,619 (29.4%) raccoons, 1,365 (24.8%) skunks, 325 (5.9%) foxes, 244 (4.4%) cats, 85 (1.5%) cattle, and 67 (1.2%) dogs. There was a 4.1% decrease in the number of samples submitted for testing in 2015, compared with the number submitted in 2014. Three human rabies deaths were reported in 2015, compared with only 1 in 2014. A 65-year-old man in Massachusetts was bitten by a rabid dog while abroad. A 77-year-old woman in Wyoming had contact with a bat. A 54-year-old man in Puerto Rico was bitten by a mongoose. The only connection among these 3 cases was that none received postexposure prophylaxis.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE
Laboratory testing of animals suspected to be rabid remains a critical public health function and continues to be a cost-effective method to directly influence human rabies postexposure prophylaxis recommendations. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2017;250:1117–1130)
The present report provides a detailed update on rabies epidemiology and events in the United States during 2014 as well as a brief summary of rabies events in 2015. Updates are also provided for Canada and Mexico.
Rabies is caused by neurotrophic viruses of the genus Lyssavirus. It is almost always fatal once clinical signs develop, but is preventable if appropriate postexposure prophylaxis is administered in a timely manner. The primary route of transmission is through the bite of an infected mammal, but rabies may also be transmitted when fresh saliva from an infected animal comes into contact