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Vigilance key to keeping U.S. free of canine rabies, CDC expert says

Article

Atlanta - 11/8/07 - The United States is officially free of the type of rabies found in dogs -- the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) formally declared it in September -- but that doesn't mean canine rabies is no loger a matter for concern

Atlanta - 11/8/07 - The United States is officially free of the type of rabies found in dogs - the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) formally declared it in September - but that doesn't mean canine rabies is no longer a matter for concern.

"The U.S. (canine) rabies-free status is a solid one, with enhanced surveillance going on in most states, but our porous borders are of some concern, as is importation of dogs from many countries where there still is canine rabies," says Dr. Charles Rupprecht, VMD, PhD and chief of the CDC's rabies program.

"Mexico has made great progress in canine-rabies control - almost mirroring what's been done here and in Canada," Rupprecht says, "but globally it's still a problem, especially with importations. We are optimistic that what we've accomplished can set the example throughout this hemisphere and eventually the world."

A major initiative, World Rabies Day , was launched globally in September to help increase worldwide awareness and prevention of the disease, and the program highlighted the U.S. as a major success story. Canine rabies elimination in this country was achieved through a high level of adherence to dog vaccinations and licensing and stray-dog control, according to the CDC.

"The elimination of canine rabies in the United States represents one of the major public health success stories in the last 50 years. HOwever, there is still much work to be done to prevent and control rabies globally," Rupprecht says.

"The elimination of dog-to-dog transmission of rabies doesn't mean that people in the United States can stop vaccinating their pets against rabies. It is ever-present in wildlife and can be transmitted to dogs or other pets. We need to stay vigilant. Our public health infrastructure, including our quarantine stations, local animal-control programs, veterinarians and clinicians all play vital roles in preserving our canine-rabies-free status."

The disease remains a human threat in the United States particularly from bats, the CDC says. Rabies accounts for at least 55,000 human deaths annually worldwide. And it remains a threat through spillover infections from wildlife to domestic animals and movement of potentially infected animals.

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