International Fact Sheet
Susan Mikota DVM
a Lyssavirus in the
have evolved in Africa
distribution (except Australia, the UK, Scandinavia…
- all warm
blooded mammals susceptible
Transmission and Pathogenesis
incubation variable - 3 weeks to many months
transmitted by bites from reservoir hosts
reservoir hosts vary geographically
host in U.S.
spotted skunk Spirogale putorius
aberrant / reservoir hosts
striped skunk, bats, , raccoon, gray and red fox, coyote,
dog in Asia, South America, Africa
mongoose in Africa
Clinical Signs in Elephants
incoordination, paralysis of trunk or limbs
restlessness, aggression, blindness
rabies should be
in the DDx of any disease that presents with CNS signs
toxicity (e.g. heavy metal; pesticide)
vaccination prudent in endemic areas
Measurable titers (up to 1:1100 in RFFIT)** against rabies
have been achieved in African elephants vaccinated with a single 2 cc
dose of killed rabies vaccine IM (IMRAB 3, Merial, Duluth, Georgia,
persisted at >1:50 for at least 2 years. Based on this preliminary
data a dosage regimen of 2 cc killed rabies vaccine IM every 2 years
is recommended (Michele Miller DVM PhD, Elephant SSP)
suspect cases; no contact
is a zoonotic disease and is fatal for humans
reports of transmission from elephants to humans but possible
caution when examining tissues from rabies suspects
** The Rapid Fluorescent Focus Inhibition Test (RFFIT) is a laboratory test that detects
rabies virus neutralizing antibodies. The threshold for a protective titer in animals has
not been established, however, a titer greater than 1:5 is considered protective in humans.
This is the test used at Kansas State University; it is not a species-specific assay.
for general information about rabies:
Wikepedia (on-line encyclopedia):
Rabies References with Abstracts June 2005
Elephant Care International Bibliographic Database (www.elephantcare.org)
1. Chakraborty,A. 2003. Diseases of
elephants (Elephas maximus) in India-A Review. Indian Wildlife Year
2. Wimalaratne,O. and Kodikara,D.S.
1999. First reported case of elephant rabies in Sri Lanka. Veterinary
Abstract: An 84-year-old female domesticated elephant presented with a
4-day history of lethargy. Appetite and water intake was normal but the
following day she was unsteady, aggressive and restless. There were
secretions from both temporal glands. On the sixth day she was completely
anorectic, had developed paralysis of the trunk and was unable to stand,
falling each time she tried to stand up, and she was noticed to be blind.
She died on the ninth day after the first symptoms were observed. PM
examination showed the brain to be more vascular than normal and a brain
smear was positive for rabies antigen. A serum sample went to the WHO
Collaborating Center for Rabies in Bangkok, Thailand, which determined a
rabies virus neutralizing antibody titre of 0.68 IU/ml by the rapid
fluorescent focus inhibition test. Antigenic typing and genetic sequencing
showed the virus to be similar, but not identical, to the common Sri
Lankan dog rabies variant, although there was no history of an animal bite
to the elephant.
Radhakrishnan,K., Cheeran,J.V., Nair,K.N.M., and Prabhakaran,T., 1995.
Review of the Incidence, Etiology and Control of Common Diseases of Asian
Elephants with Special Reference to Kerala. In Daniel,J.C. (Editor). A
Week with Elephants; Proceedings of the International Seminar on Asian
Elephants.Bombay, India Bombay Natural History Society; Oxford University
Press, pp. 439-449.
Abstract: Incidence, etiology, symptoms and control of specific and
non-specific diseases of captive and wild elephants have been reviewed.
Asian elephants have been observed to be susceptible to various parasitic
diseases such as helminthiasis, trypanosomiasis and ectoparasitic
infestations, bacterial diseases such as tetanus, tuberculosis,
haemorrhagic septicemia, salmonellosis and anthrax, viral diseases such as
foot and mouth disease, pox and rabies and non-specific diseases like
impaction of colon, foot rot and corneal opacity. A detailed study
extending over two decades on captive and wild elephants in Kerala,
revealed high incidence of helminthiasis (285), ectoparasitic infestation
(235), impaction of colon (169) and foot rot (125). Diseases such as
trypanosomiasis (21), tetanus (8), tuberculosis (5) pox (2) and anthrax
(1) were also encountered. The line of treatment against the diseases
mentioned, have been discussed in detail.
4. Berry,H.H. 1993. Surveillance
and control of anthrax and rabies in wild herbivores and carnivores in
Namibia. Revue Scientifique et Technique Office International des
Abstract: Anthrax has been studied intensively in Etosha National Park,
Namibia since 1966; in addition, since 1975, mortality due to rabies and
all other causes has been recorded, totaling 6190 deaths. Standard
diagnostic procedures demonstrated that at least 811 deaths (13%) were due
to anthrax and 115 deaths (2%) were caused by rabies. Of the total number
of deaths due to anthrax, 97% occurred in zebra (Equus burchelli),
elephant (Loxodonta africana), wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus) and
springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) while 96% of rabies deaths occurred in
kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), jackal (Canis mesomelas), bat-eared fox (Otocyon
megalotis) and lion (Panthera leo). Anthrax deaths were highest in the
rainy season for zebra, wildebeest and springbok, while elephant mortality
peaked during dry seasons. No statistical relationship existed between
seasonal rainfall and overall incidence of either anthrax or rabies.
Control of anthrax is limited to prophylactic inoculation when rare or
endangered species are threatened. Incineration of anthrax carcasses and
chemical disinfection of drinking water are not feasible at Etosha. Rabies
control consists of the destruction of rabid animals and incineration of
their carcasses when possible.
5. Arora,B.M., 1992. An overview of
infectious diseases and neoplasms of the elephants (Elephas maximus) in
India. In Silas,E.G., Nair,M.K., and Nirmalan,G. (Editors). The Asian
Elephant: Ecology, Biology, Diseases, Conservation and Management
(Proceedings of the National Symposium on the Asian Elephant held at the
Kerala Agricultural University, Trichur, India, January 1989).Trichur,
India Kerala Agricultural University, pp. 159-161.
6. Gopal,T. and Rao,B.U. 1984.
Rabies in an Indian wild elephant calf. Indian Veterinary Journal
7. McGaughey,C.A. 1962. Diseases of
elephants. Part 4. Ceylon Veterinary Journal 10:3-9.
8. Gupta,V. 1945. Rabies in an
elephant. Indian Veterinary Journal May.
9. Beckett,J. 1932. Death of an
elephant from rabies. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society
10. Ramiah,B. 1932. Paralytic rabies
in an elephant. Indian Veterinary Journal 9:142.
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