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Veterinary Public Health Program
313 N Figueroa St. Rm 1127
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Tel (213) 989-7060
Tel: (877) 747-2243
Fax (213) 481-2375
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Rabies in Los Angeles County

Bats are the animals that most commonly carry rabies in our county right now. Most bats do not have rabies, and try to avoid contact with people and pets. Bats are good for the environment because they eat insects and pollinate plants. Bats are also protected by law. Scroll down to bottom for latest Los Angeles County and California rabies data.

RABIES HISTORY IN LOS ANGELES COUNTY.  In the past, hundreds of dogs were diagnosed with rabies in our county. The first rabid animal diagnosed in Los Angeles County occurred in 1898 when an Englishman told the Health Officer his dog, which was uncontrollable, might have rabies. Confirmatory tests were run in Chicago. The following year, a man who was bitten on his nose by his rabid cocker spaniel became the first known human rabies death in the County.

In June of 1909, a police officer shot a collie dog with rabies. Within a month, the police officer shot three more suspected rabid dogs found within five blocks of the original dog. That year, another muzzling ordinance was passed the same month by the board of health.

Some people denied that rabies existed. Strong opposition by a few dog lovers, the humane animal officer, and some members of the board of health resulted in repeal of the ordinance a week later. With the repeal of the muzzle ordinance, rabies spread rapidly in Los Angeles.

The most rabid dogs (1730) confirmed in the County of Los Angeles occurred in 1937. That year, a 57-year-old man saw a dog attack a group of school children. Rushing over, he grabbed the rabid dog and was bitten several times. He held it until police arrived. The man later died of rabies. In the fall, an Altadena veterinarian died of rabies.

In 1956, following the largest outbreak of rabies in cattle in Los Angeles County, all dogs within the County were required to be vaccinated against rabies as a prerequisite to licensing. Later California passed a similar law. Following mandatory rabies vaccination of dogs, the disease declined rapidly. Canine rabies still predominates in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

RABIES TODAY. Today in North America and Europe rabies is maintained in wildlife. For example, in California during 2006 there were 201 rabid animals diagnosed. Bats (158), skunks (40), and fox (2) accounted for over 99% of the rabid animals. One horse was the only rabid domestic animal. That year all rabid animals (7) detected in Los Angeles County were bats.

In the United States today, bats account for most rabies in people. Bat bites often go unnoticed by the victim who then fails to seek medical attention. During the first six years of the 21st century Los Angeles County averaged nine rabid bats a year. Rabies can be prevented if immunizations are started right after exposure to a rabid animal.

Veterinarians and other people who may come into contact with rabid animals are vaccinated against rabies before exposure to boost their immunity or ability to fight off the virus.

Clinical signs of rabies are rarely definitive in animals.  Rabid animals of all species usually exhibit typical signs of neurological disturbance. The most reliable signs, regardless of species, are acute behavioral changes and unexplained progressive paralysis.

The last human rabies death in the county occurred in 2005. A man from Latin America had been living in the USA for over a year before becoming ill. The Centers for Disease Control determined the man died from a strain of dog rabies typically seen in his country of origin.






Animal Rabies Cases in LA County 1922-2007    



Map  - Rabid Animals in California, 2007

       2011 Lecture about rabies
       Rabies Control Manual - Los Angeles County
       Laws related to Rabies - State of California
       Compendium of Rabies Control - California Department of Public Health, 2004
       List of Approved Rabies Vaccines for Animals in California - CA Dept of Public Health, 2008
       MULTIMEDIA RESOURCES - Click HERE for CDC podcasts, videos, eCards and more about RABIES! 4/25/11

       Rabies Tales from Los Angeles County (cartoon)      
       Questions and Answers about Rabies (CDC)
       Bats and Rabies (CDC)

Positive Rabies Laboratory Slide (Image from LA County Public Health Laboratory)

Physicians  - click HERE for more information about rabies.


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