Summary—During 2003, 49 states and Puerto Rico reported 7,170 cases of rabies in nonhuman animals and 3 cases in human beings to the CDC. This represents a 10% decrease from the 7,967 cases in nonhuman animals and 3 cases in human beings reported in 2002. More than 91% (n = 6,556) were in wild animals, and 8.6% (614) were in domestic species (compared with 92.5% in wild animals and 7.4% in domestic species in 2002). The relative contributions of the major groups of animals were as follows: 2,635 raccoons (36.7%), 2,112 skunks (29.4%), 1,212 bats (16.9%), 456 foxes (6.4%), 321 cats (4.5%), 117 dogs (1.6%), and 98 cattle (1.4%). Compared with cases reported in 2002, the number of cases reported in 2003 decreased among all reporting groups with the exception of cats, dogs, equids, and swine. Ten of the 19 states with enzootic rabies in raccoons, the District of Columbia, and New York City reported decreases in the numbers of rabid raccoons during 2003. Tennessee reported 4 cases of indigenous rabies in raccoons during 2003, becoming the 20th state where rabies in raccoons is known to be enzootic.
On a national level, the number of rabies cases in skunks during 2003 decreased by 13.2% from those reported in 2002. Texas again reported the greatest number (n = 620) of rabid skunks during 2003, as well as the greatest overall state total of rabies cases (909). As in 2002, Texas did not report any cases of rabies associated with the dog/coyote variant of the rabies virus, but did report 61 cases associated with the gray fox variant of the virus (compared with 65 cases in 2002). The 1,212 cases of rabies reported in bats during 2003 represented a decline of nearly 12% from the previous year's record high of 1,373 cases for this group of mammals. Cases of rabies reported in foxes and raccoons declined 10.2% and 8.9%, respectively, during 2003. Rabies among sheep and goats decreased from 15 cases in 2002 to 12 cases in 2003, whereas cases reported in cats, dogs, and equids increased 7.4%, 18.2%, and 8.6%, respectively. In Puerto Rico, reported cases of rabies in mongooses and dogs decreased 26.9% and 35.7%, respectively, from those reported in 2002.
Three cases of rabies in human beings were reported in California, Virginia, and Puerto Rico during 2003. The Virginia case was the first reported occurrence of rabies in a human being infected with the raccoon rabies virus variant; however, the exposure history was unknown. The California and Puerto Rico cases were the result of infections with bat and dog/mongoose rabies virus variants, respectively, and each patient had a history of a bite.