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Rabies and Vampire Bats

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. For APHIS, changes in environmental conditions will increase the likelihood of shifts in the distribution and nature of current domestic diseases, invasive species and agricultural pests.  These changes will likely influence the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these diseases and pests, and therefore much of APHIS’ work. Understanding and adapting to these changes is therefore critical to meeting our mission.

Vampire bats rank high on the list of animals that scare us the most. Spooky Halloween tales of their blood-sucking, nocturnal, and secretive habits have likely led to their bad reputation. The fact that some also carry and spread the deadly rabies virus doesn’t help.

The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of Central and South American wildlife and livestock. They also sometimes bite and feed on the blood of people. Recently, vampire bats have been documented within 35 miles of the Texas border. This has caused concern and speculation about the potential movement of vampire bats to areas within the United States as a result of rising global temperatures. To gain a better understanding of the likelihood of such movement, USDA-APHIS geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio with the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center partnered with U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Mark Hayes to analyze and map the potential distribution of vampire bats under various climate scenarios.

Events Highlight the Impact of Rabies on People, Pets and Wildlife

What do raccoons, vampire bats, and mongooses have in common? All are wildlife species that are commonly associated with rabies and can potentially expose people, pets and livestock to the deadly virus.  

The significant impact of rabies on public and animal health will be the focus of the 26th Rabies in the Americas conference in Fort Collin, Colorado, on October 4-8.  This is the first time this important international conference will be held in Colorado and be hosted by APHIS, according to Richard Chipman, coordinator for APHIS-Wildlife Services’ (WS) National Rabies Management Program.

Rabies Research and Prevention Subject of Student's Winning Logo

Come this October, Katie Clonan is looking forward to seeing the fruits of her labor all over Fort Collins, Colorado. That’s because Katie is the winner of the 2015 Rabies in the Americas (RITA) logo contest.  Her logo will be showcased on t-shirts, banners, and other paraphernalia shared with more than 300 attendees of the 26th annual RITA conference from October 4-8 in Fort Collins.

“This is the first time the international Rabies in the Americas conference has been held in Colorado,” notes Dr. Stephanie Shwiff, one of several USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) scientists helping to plan the event. “We’re excited to host the conference with our colleagues in the Wildlife Services National Rabies Management Program and other members of the RITA planning committee. One of my favorite tasks so far has been partnering with Colorado State University’s (CSU) Department of Art and Art History to sponsor a logo contest.”

#Together Against Rabies: APHIS-Wildlife Services Works to Prevent Rabies

This year’s World Rabies Day theme “Together Against Rabies” is appropriate given the number and diversity of organizations around the world focused on preventing the spread of rabies in people, pets, livestock and wildlife.

Since 2007, the Global Alliance for Rabies Control has sponsored World Rabies Day on September 28 to promote rabies awareness and reduce rabies transmission. For its part, the APHIS-Wildlife Services (WS) program has been working cooperatively with local, State, and Federal governments, international partners, universities and others since 1995 to prevent the spread of rabies in wildlife in North America.