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Of bats and livestock: The epidemiology of rabies in Trinidad, West Indies

Seetahal, Janine F.R., Sanchez-Vazquez, Manuel J., Vokaty, Alexandra, Carrington, Christine V.F., Mahabir, Ron, Adesiyun, Abiodun A., Rupprecht, Charles E.
Veterinary microbiology 2019 v.228 pp. 93-100
Chiroptera, cattle, epidemiology, epizootic diseases, goats, humans, rabies, risk, vaccination, wild animals, Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago
Vampire bat-transmitted human rabies was first recognized in Trinidad during a major outbreak during the first half of the 20th century. To date, Trinidad is the only Caribbean island with vampire bat-transmitted rabies. Herein, we summarized the epidemiological situation of rabies in Trinidad during the period 1971–2015 through the analysis of field and laboratory records. During the study period, 259 domestic and wild animal rabies cases were laboratory confirmed with an annual median of 2 animal rabies cases. Over the 45 years, five significant epizootic events occurred (in 1974, 1997–1998, 2000, 2010 and 2012–2013) over which there was a significant increasing trend for the occurrence of rabies cases. The highest number of cases (87 cases) occurred during the 1997–1998 event, and the rabies positive proportion, was highest (0.7, 95% CI 0.52-0.84) for the year 2000. Rabies risk was highest for cattle (negative binomial parameter estimate 4.84, 95% CI 3.45–6.76), although numerous rabies cases were seen in the caprine population during the study period. In light of this finding, consideration should be given to including the small ruminant population in the national rabies vaccination program. Outbreaks affected mainly the counties of St. Patrick and St. George East, with epidemic progression outwards, and these areas should be prioritized for prevention and control efforts.