Zoonotic diseases transmitted from domestic animals and wildlife to humans have major socioeconomic impacts involving public health, agriculture, and wildlife conservation.1 Since the 1980s, numerous studies2–10 have been conducted on the economics of rabies and rabies control in North America, but none has clearly defined the impacts of raccoon rabies in cattle. Moreover, little is known about the costs associated with the impact of wildlife rabies on agriculture in the United States, and this issue is recommended for further study in a national plan for rabies management in US wildlife.11
In some instances, rabies in a single domestic animal has led to massive human exposure to the rabies virus, which has resulted in substantial socioeconomic impacts. Exposure to a rabid dog in Yuba County, Calif, in 1980 resulted in expenditures for rabies PEP for 70 people ($92,650), vaccination of 2,000 dogs and related veterinary services ($4,190), and responses by a health department and local animal control programs ($8,950), for a total of $105,790.12 A single kitten confirmed with raccoon rabies in a pet store in Concord, NH, in 1994 resulted in rabies exposure of 665 people at an estimated cost of $1.5 million, which included $1.1 million for human PEP, $4,200 for rabies virus diagnostic testing, and $15,000 for responses by federal and state public health agencies.13,14 Two incidents (1996 and 1998) involving raccoon rabies in cattle in Worcester County, Mass, led to 89 people receiving PEP as a result of drinking unpasteurized milk (80 people) or direct contact with saliva (9 people) from rabid dairy cows.15 These examples underscore the extensive nature of costs borne by animal owners and the public related to rabies in companion animals and livestock. Moreover, the translocation of raccoon rabies from Florida to areas naïve for the virus in western Virginia and West Virginia in the 1970s,16 followed by the rapid spread of the virus,17 has resulted in extensive human and animal health impacts and substantial costs throughout the eastern United States.4
Cattle production is an important part of the agricultural industry in the United States, with a value of $51.5 billion in 2010 (determined on the basis of cash receipts from marketing).18 The US cattle-calf inventory as of January 1, 2011, was 92.6 million animals, with an estimated value of $37 billion18 that involved approximately 950,000 cattle operations in the United States.19
The number of US cattle operations that vaccinate for rabies is not known, but rabies vaccination of cattle is uncommon.a In 1 study,6 it was estimated that only 2% to 5% of animal vaccinations against rabies are administered to livestock in developed countries, and unpublished data from a 2007 reportb on dairy cattle health and management practices in the United States indicated that a mean ± SE of only 0.8 ± 0.2% of dairy operations vaccinated dairy heifers or cows for rabies. Nevertheless, rabies remains a threat to human and animal health in livestock operations throughout the United States because wildlife rabies is enzootic.
In the study reported here, costs were estimated for raccoon rabies incidents in cattle herds in West Virginia and Ohio. This information can expand understanding of the dynamics, responses, and costs associated with wildlife rabies in cattle. In addition, it can provide input for a more robust evaluation of the benefits and costs associated with ORV intervention to reduce the risk of future incidents.
Oral rabies vaccine
Fossler C, USDA, APHIS, Veterinary Services, Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health, Fort Collins, Colo: Personal communication, 2011.
Wagner B, USDA, APHIS, Veterinary Services, Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health, Fort Collins, Colo: Personal communication, 2011.
Hunt P, Texas Department of State Health Services, Zoonosis Control Branch: Unpublished data, 2011.
Oertli E, Texas Department of State Health Services, Zoonosis Control Branch: Personal communication, 2011.
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