RAGE could return to the US despite strict vaccine regulations, CDC warns, after a five-month-old rescue pup that met Azerbaijan’s import requirements tested positive for the virus
- Rabies was eradicated in the United States in 2003, but has been detected five times in animal imports over the past 15 years
- Last year, a puppy tested positive for the virus just three days after arriving with its foster family in Pennsylvania after a flight from Azerbaijan
- The dog had started biting the air, hypersalivating and became restless
- He was later shot dead after suffering seizures and cardiac arrest
- Blood tests revealed that eight of the 34 animals imported in this shipment were not properly vaccinated against rabies
- CDC officials now say all animal imports from high-risk countries should have their blood tested to confirm they have received the rabies vaccine.
Rabies could be imported back into the United States due to improper vaccinations, health officials warned on Thursday, after a five-month-old rescue puppy from Azerbaijan tested positive for the virus last year. despite meeting import requirements.
The disease – which triggers convulsions and foaming in the mouth – was eradicated in the United States in 2003, but has reappeared five times in the past 15 years.
The case last year where a puppy fell ill just three days after arriving with its adoptive family in Pennsylvania has been blamed on faulty paperwork.
The animal was certified vaccinated against rabies in Azerbaijan, but tests revealed that he and seven others of the 33 dogs and one cat brought across the border had not been fully vaccinated.
Last year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials banned the importation of dogs from 109 high-risk countries, including four from Eastern Europe.
But it is due to expire later this year, with the CDC calling for blood testing to be implemented at ports to confirm that all animals imported from high-risk areas are vaccinated.
Rabies is transmitted through the bites of infected animals. It is fatal in almost all cases without treatment, with victims’ symptoms progressing from fever to convulsions within days.
CDC officials warn that rabies could be imported back into the United States. There is no suggestion that the puppy above has rabies
The warning was revealed in a scientific paper published this week in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Lead author Dr Florence Whitehill, CDC animal disease expert, and colleagues said: ‘A requirement for rabies vaccination certificates will not be enough to adequately identify improper vaccination practices or fraudulent documentation. and is insufficient as a stand-alone measure to prevent the importation of rabies.
‘[Blood] testing of animals from high-risk countries and electronic reporting of results directly from prequalified laboratories prior to arrival in the United States should be considered to mitigate the risk of importation [rabies].’
Rabies: death from a scratch
Rabies is a viral infection that targets the nervous system and the brain.
It is fatal in almost all untreated cases and has an incubation period of 20 to 60 days.
It is transmitted to humans only by infected animals, most often by the animal’s bite or claw.
It can also be spread through an animal’s saliva in contact with a scrape or cut on a human’s skin. The majority of rabies cases result from being bitten by an infected dog.
Symptoms of the disease include high temperatures, numbness where the bite occurred, and hallucinations. Some sufferers also suffer from hydrophobia, which is a fear of water.
There are approximately 55,000 cases of rabies worldwide each year, of which more than 95% occur in Africa and Asia. Half of all rabies cases occur in India.
Each year, more than 29 million people worldwide receive a post-bite vaccine. It is estimated that this prevents hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths each year.
In the latest case, the pup arrived at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois on June 10 last year and was sent to a foster home.
Three days later, he began biting invisible objects, hypersalivating, and suffering from restlessness.
The animal was taken to the vet, where it suffered seizures and suffered cardiac arrest. It was filed later the same day.
A total of 37 people who were exposed to the animal – including airport workers, vets and its adoptive family – have been tested for the virus.
A total of 15 people received rabies post-exposure prophylaxis as a precaution in case they were infected.
Later, none caught rabies, which has an incubation time of 20 to 60 days.
Blood tests revealed that seven other animals in the shipment – all dogs – had not been adequately vaccinated against rabies when they arrived.
Unvaccinated animals were placed in strict quarantine for four to six months to ensure they did not have the virus.
The other 25 were placed in home quarantine for 45 days as a precaution in case they were exposed to the virus.
None subsequently developed an infection.
Animals are considered vaccinated against rabies from 28 days after receiving their initial vaccine.
But in some cases – as with these animals – if too low an initial dose is given, the vaccine may not elicit immunity.
Rescue workers in Azerbaijan blamed a veterinary trainee for the improper vaccinations, who they believe was responsible for the rabies shots at the time.
They added that an examination revealed “numerous” rabies vials containing a higher than expected residual amount of vaccine.
Last year, America reported five rabies deaths – its highest toll in a decade.
Four of them were in contact with bats, while one was due to the bite of an infected dog.
That was more than the past four years combined, when just three deaths from the virus were reported.
The CDC said the deaths were tragic and the majority could have been prevented with a series of quick injections. Three of those infected refused the injections.