1.4 What is wildlife rabies?

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Fox cub at den

Rabies viruses circulate in a wide variety of mammals including dogs, wild carnivores (carnivora) and in a variety of bat species (chiroptera). Those species may serve as principal reservoir hosts of distinct rabies virus variants in different parts of the world.
Terrestrial wildlife rabies occurs on all continents except Antarctica and Australia (Australian bats disseminate a rabies-like virus).

Red foxes in North America and Eurasia are among the most important reservoir carnivore species propagating the rabies viruses. Populations of other small to medium-sized carnivores, such as jackals, coyotes, raccoon dogs, mongooses, raccoons and skunks, act as reservoir species for the circulation of rabies viruses in other areas (see map here). Rabies is frequently transmitted from the principal host to other species (“spill-over”). This may serve to increase the risk of infection to other animals and humans.

Please note that sporadic, or even frequent, rabies cases in wildlife, especially in areas with endemic canine rabies, do not necessarily indicate that wildlife represents a reservoir!

Links to other websites providing general information on rabies


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Version 1 - Last updated November 2012