Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to site content
CDC Home

Rabies in a Llama -- Oklahoma

On November 28, 1989, the first reported case of rabies in a llama in the United States occurred in Oklahoma in a 10-year-old male llama. Approximately 4 weeks before onset of symptoms, the llama was brought to southern Oklahoma from northern Texas, where it had been kept in a pasture for 2 years. On November 21, the llama had onset of ataxia, aggressive behavior, and progressive hind-leg paralysis; the animal died November 27. Rabies was diagnosed by fluorescent antibody test of brain tissue. Monoclonal antibody testing showed that the virus was identical to the antigenically distinct group of viruses found in skunks from the south-central United States.

Two dogs, four llamas, and 46 Angora goats have been quarantined for 6 months' observation because of possible exposure to the rabid llama; these animals had shared a pasture in Oklahoma. Rabies prophylaxis was administered to 13 persons, including the owner and his family, a veterinarian, a veterinarian aide, caretakers, and family friends who were exposed to the llama during the illness or 2 weeks before onset of illness.

Of 3163 animal specimens submitted for rabies testing to the Oklahoma State Department of Health in 1989, 102 (3%) were positive for rabies, including specimens from 74 skunks, seven cattle, six bats, six cats, four dogs, three horses, one raccoon, and one llama. In 1989, two rabid skunks were identified in the Oklahoma county and two in the Texas county where the llama had been kept. Reported by: M Milton, Stephens County Health Dept; P Boden, MS, C Crocker, K Krisher, PhD, S McNabb, PhD, GR Istre, MD, State Epidemiologist, Oklahoma State Dept of Health. J Perdue, Texas Dept of Health. Viral and Rickettsial Zoonoses Br, Div of Viral and Rickettsial Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases; Div of Field Svcs, Epidemiology Program Office, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: Llamas (members of the ungulate family) have become increasingly popular domesticated animals. Approximately 20,000 llamas are currently registered in the United States (International Llama Registry, unpublished data), with approximately 200 being kept in Oklahoma; most of these animals are kept for breeding and showing. The potential for human exposure to rabies from infected llamas at fairs, petting zoos, and parades is a public health concern because of the llama's defensive spitting behavior. No rabies vaccine is licensed for use in llamas.

Virtually all mammals are susceptible to rabies virus infection (1). In the United States, four wild animal groups (bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks) accounted for at least 85% of reported rabies cases during 1980-1988 (1). Most animals that develop rabies in Oklahoma are believed to be infected from skunks.

In recent years, rabies has been reported for the first time in javelinas (2) and armadillos (3). Rabies must be considered in the differential diagnosis of any mammal with unexplained neurologic illness.


  1. CDC. Rabies surveillance, United States, 1988. MMWR 1989;38(no. SS-1).

  2. CDC. Rabies in a javelina--Arizona. MMWR 1986;35:555-6,561.

  3. Leffingwell LM, Neill SU. Naturally acquired rabies in an armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) in Texas. J Clin Microbiol 1989;27:174-5.

Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

References to non-CDC sites on the Internet are provided as a service to MMWR readers and do not constitute or imply endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. CDC is not responsible for the content of pages found at these sites. URL addresses listed in MMWR were current as of the date of publication.

All MMWR HTML versions of articles are electronic conversions from typeset documents. This conversion might result in character translation or format errors in the HTML version. Users are referred to the electronic PDF version ( and/or the original MMWR paper copy for printable versions of official text, figures, and tables. An original paper copy of this issue can be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, DC 20402-9371; telephone: (202) 512-1800. Contact GPO for current prices.

**Questions or messages regarding errors in formatting should be addressed to The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
A-Z Index
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D
  5. E
  6. F
  7. G
  8. H
  9. I
  10. J
  11. K
  12. L
  13. M
  14. N
  15. O
  16. P
  17. Q
  18. R
  19. S
  20. T
  21. U
  22. V
  23. W
  24. X
  25. Y
  26. Z
  27. #