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Rabies -- Mid-Atlantic States

An increased number of rabies cases among wild raccoons has recently been reported from the mid-Atlantic states (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia) (Table 2). The disease is primarily concentrated in an eight-county area encompassing northern Virginia, western Maryland, and southcentral Pennsylvania (Table 3). One case has also been reported in Washington, D.C.

A single raccoon from eastern West Virginia was reported rabid in 1977--the first case in the area. Rabid raccoons were reported from contiguous counties in Virginia and West Virginia during 1978-1980; since then, the outbreak has grown to encompass several adjacent counties in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Between January 1 and October 15, 1982, 432 rabid raccoons had been reported from Virginia, 35 from Maryland, 23 from Pennsylvania, and 15 from West Virginia. Rabies among dogs and cats has also been reported. The first case of rabies in a raccoon in Washington, D. C., was reported on October 27, 1982. Within the raccoon-outbreak area, rabid skunks, bats, and foxes have been reported during the last 12 months (Table 4). Reported by E Israel, MD, State Epidemiologist, Maryland State Dept of Health and Mental Hygiene; CW Hays, MD, State Epidemiologist, Pennsylvania State Dept of Health; GB Miller, Jr, MD, State Epidemiologist, Virginia State Dept of Health; LE Haddy, MS, State Epidemiologist, West Virginia State Dept of Health; ME Levy, MD, State Epidemiologist, District of Columbia Dept of Human Svcs; Viral and Rickettsial Zoonoses Br, Div of Viral Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: The pattern of rabies among raccoons in the mid-Atlantic states represents a significant departure from the pattern seen in the United States during the last 10 years. In most of the country, raccoon rabies occurs as sporadic, isolated cases. However, in the southeastern states--Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina--raccoons are the major rabies reservoir, and raccoon rabies occurs as an enzootic or epizootic disease. As recently as 1980, 90% of all raccoon rabies in the United States was reported from these four states; Georgia alone reported 208 cases (53% of the total that year). So far in 1982, Virginia has reported 62% of all raccoon rabies in the United States. Thus, in a two-year span, Virginia has reported a

60-fold increase in raccoon rabies.

Local, state, and federal health agencies are cooperating to study the spread of the outbreak by intensifying rabies surveillance activities in the affected areas. Health agencies are also cooperating to educate the public to the risk of exposure to wild animals in rabies-affected areas, to the necessity for keeping rabies immunizations for pet dogs and cats current, and to the importance of seeking medical attention if bitten or exposed to wild animals.

There is no known technique for effectively eliminating rabies in wildlife, but research concerning the understanding and control of the disease in wild animal populations is underway. No human rabies case has ever been known to result from a raccoon bite.

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