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Clin Infect Dis. 2002 Sep 15;35(6):738-47. Epub 2002 Aug 28.

Emerging epidemiology of bat-associated cryptic cases of rabies in humans in the United States.

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Viral and Rickettsial Zoonoses Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA, 30333, USA.


In the United States, during the past half-century, the number of humans to die of rabies dramatically decreased to an average of 1-2 per year. Although the number of deaths is low, most deaths occur because individuals are unaware that they had been exposed to and infected with rabies virus, and, therefore, they do not seek effective postexposure treatment. Molecular epidemiological studies have linked most of these cryptic rabies exposures to rabies virus variants associated with insectivorous bats. In particular, virus variants associated with 2 relatively reclusive species, the silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) and the eastern pipistrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus), are the unexpected culprits of most cryptic cases of rabies in humans.

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