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Rabies postexposure prophylaxis. Human and domestic animal considerations.

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Oral Rabies Vaccination Program, Texas Department of Health, Zoonosis Control Division, Austin, Texas, USA.


The emphasis on rabies control and prevention in the United States seems to be a function of our perception of proximity of the threat. Wildlife rabies epizootics within a state may be of little concern to the uninformed urban dweller. Additionally, many parts of the western United States are free of terrestrial rabies; were it not for the presence of bat rabies, people in those areas would likely interpret rabies control as a minor public health concern. It is essential that federal, state, and local public health programs emphasize the importance of rabies control through activities that include rabies education, sponsorship of legislated requirements for domestic animal vaccination, support for local animal control programs, and the promotion of recommendations that encourage the appropriate use of PEP. We are almost guaranteed that rabies is going to remain a major public health issue well into the next century because of expanding wildlife rabies epizootics, identification of new rabies viral variants with increased public health concern, emotional and legal concerns associated with rabies exposure, and increasing national cost associated with rabies control and prevention. Nevertheless, the development of new laboratory technology that allows an understanding of the epidemiologic nature of the rabies virus based on an evolving genetic history and the interrelationship with wildlife reservoirs should allow access to valuable tools for rabies control. When combined with programs using new developments in oral rabies vaccine that can immunize whole populations of wildlife reservoirs, that technology offers encouragement in our effort to control one of the diseases of antiquity.

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