Can animals other than foxes transmit rabies?

In areas with fox-mediated rabies (which means that the fox population is maintaining the infectious cycle by sustained rabies transmission between foxes), spill-over infections from foxes to other animal species are possible. Apart from foxes, rabies cases can also be found in high risk species, e.g. in raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides), jackals (Canis latrans), skunks (Mephitis mephitis) and in raccoons (Procyon lotor), and in a wide range of other wildlife and domestic species, e.g. dogs, cats, cattle, horses, sheep and goats.

In these species, the disease is usually found in spatial and temporal association with fox rabies and is considered a spillover infection. Usually, these spillovers are dead-end infections, as the animals cannot sustain the infection themselves for any length of time. However, such infected animals are also capable of transmitting rabies to other animals and humans.

Therefore, in areas where fox rabies occurs it is of utmost importance that dogs and cats are vaccinated against rabies on a regular basis, since they are an important interface in transmitting the disease to people. If fox-mediated rabies is eliminated, rabies in other animals will also be eliminated provided no other independent cycle of rabies exists in another reservoir species.


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Version 1 - Last updated November 2012