The White Paper
Texas Department of Public Health
Purpose of the Report
|2nd Page||Vaccination Compliance Rates
Potential Adverse Effects of the Rabies Vaccination
Options for Rabies Vaccination
of Dogs and Cats in Texas
I. Purpose of the Report
The purpose of this report is to explore the options for rabies vaccination protocols in dogs and cats in Texas which would adequately and appropriately protect the public’s health. Six options have been proposed that comply with current statutory law:
1. annual vaccination using any approved vaccine
2. annual vaccination using a vaccine approved for three years (triennial vaccine)
3. vaccination every two years with a triennial vaccine
4. vaccination every three years with a triennial vaccine
5. vaccination according to manufacturer’s
It is evident that many dogs and cats in Texas are not receiving any rabies vaccinations at all. Pet owners’ complete failure to vaccinate their animals presents a serious public health danger; however, total noncompliance cannot be remedied through vaccination protocols but must be addressed through education and enforcement of existing laws. The purpose of this document is to explore options for rabies vaccination protocols; therefore, discussion will focus on vaccination intervals rather than the complete failure to vaccinate pets.
II. Overview of Rabies & Rabies Vaccine
Rabies is a universally fatal disease of mammals, including humans. Aggressive rabies control measures in animals and postexposure treatment in humans have resulted in a low incidence rate of the human rabies in the United States. Between 1990 and 2000, there were 32 human deaths due to rabies in this country. Of those, 24 cases were the result of variants of the rabies virus commonly found in bats; six were exposed to rabies outside of the United States and died of rabies variants not found in this country The remaining two cases lived in Texas and contracted the variant of rabies that infects domestic dogs and coyotes. Exactly how these last two people were exposed to rabies could not be determined.
Life-saving treatment is available for people and is effective if given soon after exposure to the rabies virus. Once clinical signs develop, treatment is no longer effective and the outcome is death. The cost for rabies biologicals is significant and ranges from $900 to $1,400 per person depending on body weight, exclusive of physician charges and associated costs such as transportation and time away from work.
Nationwide in 1998 at least 795 persons required post-exposure prophylaxis as a result of exposure to 267 rabid dogs and cats.
Between 1998 and 2000, an average of 573 people annually received rabies biologicals from the Texas Department of Health due to exposure to potentially rabid dogs and cats. The quantity of rabies biologicals dispensed through private sources, such as hospitals, is unknown.
There are many types of rabies viruses, each of which is called a variant. Each individual variant of rabies will perpetuate itself in nature through repeated transmissions only in the mammalian species for which it is adapted. Although “spillover” of the particular variant might occur in an alternate species (such as the gray fox rabies variant in a cow), spillover rabies usually presents as a single rabies case and does not continue to spread.
Texas is the only state in the U.S. in which rabies outbreaks due to the domestic dog/coyote variant of the virus have occurred in recent years. Throughout history, the canine variants of the rabies virus have caused millions of deaths worldwide. The canine variants are regarded as especially dangerous because they are readily transmitted amongst and between wild and domestic canines (such as coyotes and dogs) and, subsequently, to people due to their close association with pet dogs. Texas’ Oral Rabies Vaccination Program has curbed the outbreak of the domestic dog/coyote variant in Texas with only an occasional case occurring near the US-Mexico border.
Rabid domestic animals are far more likely to expose humans to rabies than are rabid wild animals. For every 100 dogs and cats that are tested for rabies in Texas and found to either have positive or inconclusive results, 170 people are potentially exposed while only 16 people are potentially exposed for every 100 terrestrial wild animals that tests positive or inconclusive.
 Unpublished data – Texas Department of Health, Zoonosis Control Division
The number of laboratory-confirmed rabid dogs and cats in Texas is contained in Figure 1. According to figures from the American Veterinary Medical Association, over 60% of Texas households own companion animals, with an estimated 5.9 million dogs and 6.6 million cats residing in the state.
Laboratory-confirmed cases of rabies in Texas
During the 1950s, two concurrent events contributed to a dramatic reduction in the number of rabid dogs in the United States. First, a safe, effective rabies vaccine for dogs was developed. Second, cities began enacting more stringent animal control laws, including the removal of stray dogs. The number of confirmed cases of rabies in dogs in the United States was reduced from 6,648 in 1941 to 160 in 1989, despite an increase in the number of confirmed cases of rabies in wildlife.
general types of rabies vaccines for dogs and cats are currently available
in the United States: vaccines
that are approved for use on an annual basis and
on a triennial basis. Advances in technology are
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