Federal Officials Say U.S. Free of Canine Rabies

Canine rabies has officially been eradicated in the United States, federal officials announced Friday to coincide with World Rabies Day.

“The elimination of canine rabies in the United States represents one of the major public health success stories in the last 50 years,” said Dr. Charles Rupprecht, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Rabies Program, in a news release. “However, there is still much work to be done to prevent and control rabies globally.”

Rabies in humans is preventable, yet accounts for at least 55,000 deaths annually around the world – almost one death every 10 minutes, according to the CDC.

In the United States, canine rabies elimination was achieved through implementation of dog vaccination and licensing, and stray dog control, federal officials say.

“We remain optimistic that this official declaration of canine-rabies free status in the United States could be replicated throughout the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere.” said Rupprecht, warning that the adoption of dogs from foreign countires with canine rabies could jeopardize this status and highlights the need for global control of the disease.

“The elimination of dog-to-dog transmission of rabies does not mean that people in the U.S. can stop vaccinating their pets against rabies,” said Rupprecht. “Rabies is ever-present in wildlife and can be transmitted to dogs or other pets. We need to stay vigilant.”

Despite the elimination of canine-rabies, the disease remains a human threat in the U.S. particularly from bats. Rabies also remains a potential threat through spillover infections from wildlife to domestic animals particularly cats and dogs, the CDC said.