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CDC Signs North American Rabies Management Plan

Published: October 8, 2008

CDC Director, Julie Gerberding, M.d. MPH and Mrs. Cindy Smith, USDA APHIS Administrator, along with Mexican and Canadian authorities signed the first North American Rabies Management Plan.
CDC Director, Julie Gerberding, M.d. MPH and Mrs. Cindy Smith, USDA APHIS Administrator, along with Mexican and Canadian authorities signed the first North American Rabies Management Plan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) signed the first North American Rabies Management Plan with Canadian and Mexican authorities Friday, October 3rd at the XIX International Conference on Rabies in the Americas in Atlanta, Georgia. The plan is a collaborative effort involving representatives from each country in the fields of agriculture, public health, and wildlife management, and aims to strengthen cooperation and communication among the three countries.

"We've made tremendous strides in our efforts to combat rabies, particularly canine rabies. However, people are at risk from this terrible disease because it is still present in other types of wildlife," said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding. "We must remain vigilant and this unprecedented agreement will enable us to continue to protect people from rabies."

The North American Rabies Management Plan, which is the culmination of more than three years of work by CDC, APHIS' wildlife services program, and the governments of Canada and Mexico, establishes a framework and forum for constructive interaction among the countries to build long-term wildlife rabies management goals. The plan calls for annual meetings between the three countries to share information about oral rabies vaccine research, wildlife management, population control and surveillance techniques.

Collaboration between the three countries already is successful in controlling rabies in wildlife. Representatives from the United States and Canada in the fields of health, agriculture and wildlife management work together each year to provide expert information and guidance to develop complimentary rabies management plans to ensure the virus' containment in wildlife. In recent years, US and Mexican officials have also worked to successfully eliminate canine rabies in coyotes in south Texas. This resulted in the 2007 announcement that canine rabies (the strain which circulates from dog-to-dog globally) had been eliminated in the United States (http://www.cdc.gov/news/2007/09/canine_rabies.html).

"This plan is a crucial step to controlling rabies not only in the United States, but throughout North America," said Cindy Smith, APHIS administrator, who's agency took the lead in drafting and conceptualizing the document. "It solidifies our strong relationships with Canada and Mexico, as well as our federal and state partners, in addressing this potentially deadly virus in wildlife populations through information sharing and strategic planning."

Because human cases of rabies in North America are often the result of exposure to wildlife with the virus, each country works to eliminate the virus in its wildlife populations. In the United States, oral rabies vaccination programs aim to prevent the spread of rabies in gray fox, coyotes and raccoons.

In the United States, rabies results in the death of one to three people each year, yet approximately 45,000 individuals in the US get rabies post-exposure prophylaxis after potential exposure. Despite being preventable, over 55,000 people die rabies each year around the world—a rate of approximately one person every ten minutes. Most of these cases occur in Asia and Africa. Children are often at greatest risk from rabies as they are more likely to be bitten by dogs and in high-risk locations like the head or face.

A recent report in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report describes the importation of a rabid puppy from Iraq. Even though dog-to-dog transmission of rabies has been eliminated in the United States, rabies virus variants can still be imported by unvaccinated dogs from countries where it is common in animals, specifically Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Latin America.

"The elimination of dog-to-dog transmission of rabies does not mean that people in the US can stop vaccinating their pets against rabies," warns Dr. Charles Rupprecht, Chief of CDC's Rabies Program. "Rabies is ever-present in wildlife and can be transmitted to dogs or other pets, or imported to the US through movement of animals. Prevention is key."

For more information on rabies and its prevention: www.cdc.gov/rabies.

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