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Bat Rabies in the Southwestern United States

Denny G. Constantine
Public Health Reports (1896-1970)
Vol. 82, No. 10 (Oct., 1967), pp. 867-888
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
DOI: 10.2307/4593153
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4593153
Page Count: 23
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Abstract

Data on rabies observed in bats in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado for periods from 3 to 12 years were examined. Diagnoses of rabies were confirmed by the fluorescent antibody or serum-virus neutralization test. Rates of rabies virus infection in clinically normal bats usually were no greater than 1 percent in resident bats but 2 to 3 percent in migratory bats. Highest rates were detected in autumn. Available evidence does not support the belief that bat rabies mortality has increased since rabies in bats was discovered in the United States. When mortality was examined with allowances for annual activity patterns of the hosts, a gradual increase in mortality was evident from spring to autumn. Considerable nonrabies mortality was observed, particularly in migratory bats. Persons who encountered live bats infected with rabies experienced bites in a ratio of 14.2 bites per 100 live bats. Contacts between pets and bats occurred in a ratio of 29.8 pets per 100 infected bats. Bite rates were highest for bat species of smaller sizes, species making the few confirmed, unprovoked attacks. Captive bats died of rabies infection after periods as long as 90 days, indicating that migratory bats would have carried the virus great distances, concurrently providing an overwintering mechanism in some instances. Nonmigrant bats, collected as they were about to awaken naturally from hibernation, died of rabies-virus infection several months later, illustrating another overwintering mechanism of the virus. Rabies virus was present in the brains of all infected bats. Virus inactivation before death was observed in some tissues of bats infected in nature and in experiments. Bats frequently survived experimental exposures, some with no disease signs, some after recovering from rabies signs, and others with sequelae. Differences in bat rabies virus isolates were characterized by the responses of mice and Carnivora to infection. In addition to the aerosol route of rabies virus transmission observed in bat caves, certain bats, under experimental conditions, transmitted infective doses of virus to Carnivora by biting them. Transmission of rabies virus to Carnivora species by bites of certain bat species could occur in nature, particularly when such animals investigate ill bats. Transmission of virus to Carnivora appears to be tangential to the cycle in bats but, if it occurs, it may prove to be significant.

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