J Wildl Dis. 2023 Oct 1;59(4):734-742. doi: 10.7589/JWD-D-23-00036.
Rabies is an acute progressive encephalitis caused by infection with rabies viruses, with reservoirs among bats and mesocarnivores, but all mammals are susceptible. Despite its distribution and abundance, cases of rabies are much less common in rodents and lagomorphs. Familiarity with current rabies prevalence data is important for informed decisions on human postexposure prophylaxis after rodent and lagomorph bites. This study is an update of rabies cases reported in rodents and lagomorphs in the US from 2011 to 2020. Rabies reports were collected passively from laboratory testing agencies in the US and Puerto Rico from 2011 to 2020. Descriptive analysis was conducted to determine the percent positivity of rabies cases by species. A total of 401 cases of rabies in rodents and lagomorphs were reported from 2011 to 2020. Most reported cases were in groundhogs (Marmota monax), representing >90% of cases, and the trend closely aligned with rabies in raccoons (Procyon lotor). In any given year, the percent positivity of rabies in rodents and lagomorphs was <2.5%, and the trend of percent positivity from 2011 to 2020 was stable. Groundhog and North American beaver (Castor canadensis) percent positivity was significantly higher than the rest of the rodents and lagomorphs. Most rabies cases occurred during the months of May-September. Documented cases of rabies in rodents and lagomorphs are generally rare, but with variation between species. Groundhogs and North American beavers had rabies percent positivity similar to high-risk species, such as bats and raccoons, and constituted 97% of all rodent and lagomorph positive cases. Since 1993, the trend in rabies cases in groundhogs has significantly declined. These results can be used to help inform public health officials on rodent and lagomorph prevention and control efforts, as well as rabies postexposure prophylaxis.
Keywords: Animal bites; lagomorphs; rabies; rodents.
© Wildlife Disease Association 2023.