Jump to Main Content
Geographical Clusters and Predictors of Rabies in Three Southeastern States
- Reilly, Sara, Sanderson, Wayne T., Christian, W. Jay, Browning, Steven R.
- Vector borne and zoonotic diseases 2017 v.17 no.6 pp. 432-438
- Procyon lotor, Rabies virus, agricultural land, encephalitis, humans, monitoring, people, rabies, regression analysis, risk, vaccines, wildlife, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia
- The rabies virus causes progressive encephalomyelitis that is fatal in nearly 100% of untreated cases. In the United States, wildlife act as the primary reservoir for rabies; prevention, surveillance, and control costs remain high. The purpose of this study is to understand the current distribution of wildlife rabies in three southeastern states, with particular focus on raccoons as the primary eastern reservoir, as well as identify demographic and geographic factors which may affect the risk of human exposure. This ecologic study obtained county-level rabies surveillance data from state health departments and the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife services for North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia from 2010 to 2013. A spatial statistical analysis was performed to identify county clusters with high or low rates of raccoon rabies in the three states. Potential demographic and geographic factors associated with these varying rates of rabies were assessed using a multivariable negative binomial regression model. In North Carolina, raccoons constituted 50% of positive tests, in Virginia, 49%, and in West Virginia, 50%. Compared to persons residing in West Virginia counties, persons in North Carolina counties had 1.67 times the risk of exposure (p < 0.0001) to a rabid raccoon and those in Virginia counties had 1.82 times the risk of exposure (p < 0.0001) to a rabid raccoon. Compared to those counties where farmland makes up less than 17% of the total area, persons residing in counties with 17–28% farmland had a 32% increased risk of exposure to a rabid raccoon. In counties with 28–39% farmland, there was an 84% increased risk of exposure. State, rurality, and percent of area designated as farmland were the best predictors of risk of raccoon rabies exposure. Further research is needed to better understand the effect of the oral rabies vaccine program in controlling the risk of human exposure to raccoon rabies.