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Rabies in San Bernardino County

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Although there were reports of the presence of rabies in skunks and dogs in California as early as 1836, it is not known if it existed in San Bernardino at that early date. It has been postulated, however, that infected dogs which appeared in Los Angeles County in June, 1909 were responsible for the statewide spread of the disease which reached the Mexican border in the south and the Oregon border in the north by 1913 .

Rabies in dogs - Consequently, San Bernardino County became a canine rabies endemic area. (The number of rabies cases reported in dogs in this paper as well as those in other domestic and wild animals are based on available records in the Preventive Veterinary Services Section, San Bernardino County Health Department.) This endemicity was characterized by periodic outbreaks which often involved other species. A breakdown of the yearly canine rabies cases showing peaks of rabies activity from 1926 (the date of first available records) until 1948 is seen in Figure 2. A total of 359 dogs were reported to have rabies during this period. The last laboratory confirmed case of rabies in a dog in the County occurred in July, 1948.

Rabies in other animals - Widespread occurrence of canine rabies notwithstanding, involvement of other animal species did not appear significant. For the period (1926-1949), the following animals were reported to be rabid: 7 cats, 4 cows, 1 goat, 1 gopher, 1 rat, and 2 squirrels.

Feline rabies - There was only one case of animal rabies in the County in 1949. This was a cat and it was possibly the last case of what may have been dog-associated rabies in this species. In addition to the above, there have been 2 other feline cases (1 in 1983 which occurred in the San Bernardino Mountains, and 1 in 1993). The 1993 case occurred in Needles, a small community on the California side of the Colorado River. The virus strain isolated from this cat was shown to be similar to the rabies virus strain found in free-tailed bats common in the Southwestern USA. An epidemiological investigation noted the presence of a large colony of free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis (Figure 3) underneath an overpass on I-40 passing through Needles. It was assumed that this was the probable source of the rabid bat which infected the cat.

Rabies in livestock - Prior to 1972, there were 4 cows that were reported infected with rabies. There has been one other bovine case and this occurred in 1973 in a Mexican roping steer which had come from Los Angeles County. Following an epidemiological investigation, it was concluded that the steer acquired the infection in Los Angeles County.

The only other domestic farm animal reported to have had rabies in San Bernardino County was one case in a goat in 1937.

Wildlife rabies - With the exception of the small rodents mentioned above, rabies in wildlife in San Bernardino County was non-existent until 1961 when a bat that bit an adolescent boy in a park turned out to be rabid. Aside from a rabid fox in 1966, wildlife rabies in San Bernardino County is presently confined to bats. Bat rabies has occurred on a yearly basis since the initial report in 1961. Figure 4 shows the number of rabid bats diagnosed yearly in the County for the period from 1961 to 1998. (There were 8 bats diagnosed with rabies in 1997 and 9 in 1998 in the County.)

Although skunks are the primary reservoirs of rabies in California particularly in the Northern and Central areas of the State , skunk rabies has not been a problem in Southern California as a whole. Skunk, raccoon, and coyote rabies have never been reported in San Bernardino County notwithstanding an active skunk surveillance program by the San Bernardino County Health Department. A passive raccoon and coyote rabies surveillance program is also in place.
Bat Species Total Rabies Infected Year and Number of Rabies Infected
Myotis evotis 3 (1997 (1); 1995 (1); 1993 (1) )
M. ciliolabrum or californicus 3 (1996 (1); 1995 (1); 1993 (1) )
M. ciliolabrum 1 (1998 (1) )
M. lucifugus 2 (1995 (1); 1993 (1) )
M. yumanensis 3 (1998 (1); 1994 (1); 1993 (1) )
Pipistrellus hesperus 1 (1995 (1) )
Eptesicus fuscus 7 (1998 (2); 1997 (1); 1995 (2); 1994 (2) )
Lasiurus cinereus 8 (1998 (2); 1997 (1); 1996 (2); 1995 (3) )
L. xanthinus 8 (1998 (2); 1997 (2); 1996 (2); 1995 (2) )
Antrozous pallidus 2 (1996 (1); 1994 (1) )
Tadarida brasiliensis 16 (1998 (1); 1997 (3); 1996 (1); 1995 (5); 1994 (1); 1993 (5) )
Macrotus californicus 1 (1993), 3 (1997 (1); 1995 (1); 1993 (1) )
Total = 55 bats (Includes the 9 positive bats in 1998) (Includes the 9 positive bats in 1998) (Includes the 9 positive bats in 1998)
* Identification of bats submitted to the San Bernardino County Public Health Laboratory for rabies examination is done by Jose V. Tacal, Jr., DVM, DVPH, and confirmed by Denny Constantine, D.V.M., retired Public Health Veterinarian, California Department of Health Services and Centers for Disease Control.

**as of December 31, 1998
The last laboratory confirmed case of rabies in a dog in the County occurred in July, 1948.

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