Incidence of Rabies

Rabies occurs worldwide, affecting pets and wildlife. Overall prevalence is low in most places, but in some areas, the virus poses a serious threat to animals and humans. In the Northeastern United States, rabies has been epidemic among raccoons since the late 1970s.

More than 50 percent of all rabies cases in the United States involve raccoons. Skunks (22.5 percent), foxes (6.5 percent), and insectivorous bats (10 percent) are other common carriers. Rabies is rarely found in smaller mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, rats, and opossums. Domestic animals account for less than 10 percent of all cases in the United States.

Rabies remains a serious problem among domestic animals in certain parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Mongooses and vampire bats are common carriers in these areas.

There are rabies-free countries, where the disease has either never been recorded or has been eradicated through strict quarantines and prevention programs. These areas include the British Isles, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Japan, and parts of Scandinavia. Dogs and cats entering rabies-free countries are usually required to be quarantined for about 6 months, allowing time to observe the animal for behavioral signs of rabies.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 28 Feb 2001

Last Modified: 01 Oct 2015