Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health


Preventive Medicine & Community Health

First Advisor

Dr. C. M. G. Buttery

Second Advisor

Dr. Paul E. Mazmanian


Objectives: The description of the raccoon rabies epizootic in Virginia over fifteen years (1989-2003). Methods: Using simple statistical methods and a geographic information system (GIS)-based approach, and fifteen years worth of animal surveillance data, the progress of this epizootic has been charted in terms of the geographic spread of the disease, the major animal species affected by the disease and its spread, and the exposure and risk to humans and livestock animals presented by the expansion of the geographic range. Results: The resulting descriptive study illustrates the eastward expansion of the epizootic, the mushrooming of the disease in the northern region of the state, and the rates of rabid animal submissions for every health district and selected important animal species. Human exposures to rabid animals are mapped and compared to human population densities. Strong seasonal trends in human and livestock exposures to rabid animals are illustrated, with animal exposures predominating in the spring and autumn, while human exposures peak in the summer; also shown is the possible emergence of new strains of rabies virus and the possible extinction of the previously dominant strain. Conclusions: Some potentially positive developments have been found, such as substantially increasing levels of bat submissions across time, which may signify greater public awareness of the disease. Serious deficiencies in the monitoring system are discussed, centering on the accuracy and comparability of the data collected, and suggestions for improvement are offered. While several potentially interesting new areas of study are put forward, the standard approach to rabies control (pet vaccination and control, education of at-risk populations, orally vaccinating wild animals) is not found to be in need of significant modification, aside from the specifics of the approach being tailored to better meet local conditions.


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