Rabies in Perspective

If public health warnings were based on actual risk, rabies from bats would be near the bottom of the list. On a global scale 99 percent of human rabies comes from dogs, killing more than 60,000 humans annually.1 In contrast, transmission from bats is exceedingly rare. Colonial species, the ones typically found in buildings, rarely become aggressive even when rabid2 and normally bite only in self-defense if handled.3 Even in Latin America, home of the common vampire (Desmodus rotundus), rabies transmission from bats to people is uncommon, normally restricted to people sleeping in open areas, unprotected by mosquito nets.2

The United States and Canada average just one or two cases per year,4,5,6 and it is unlikely that additional preventative efforts could further reduce such an already rare event. States with so-called “passive” rabies prevention programs, where they simply warn of animal bite risks and vaccinate pets and people reporting bites, suffer no higher rabies mortality than states with “active” surveillance and prevention programs supported by large budgets.7

The 1.5 million Brazilian free-tailed bats living in the center of Austin, Texas provide an excellent example how bats and humans can safely coexist at great mutual benefit when conservationists and public health officials cooperate in providing a balanced message. By simply posting small signs warning visitors not to handle bats, millions have observed the spectacular bat emergences close-up over the past 35 years without a single individual being attacked or contracting any disease. The bats consume tons of insects nightly and attract millions of tourist dollars each summer. 8

Over the last century, human rabies has become rare in developed countries, mostly due to domestic animal vaccination. In the United States as recently as 1955 domestic animals, especially dogs, accounted for most rabies cases. Due to the success of dog vaccination, canine rabies declined from 47 percent in 1955 to less than two percent by 1994. As domestic animal transmission sharply declined, the number of cases caused by wildlife remained low, but attracted far more public health attention despite its continued rarity.9,10 - Read More... Rabies in Perspective


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Megabats and Microbats: Rabies in Perspective
Rabies in Perspective
Rabies in Perspective
Megabats and Microbats
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