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May 31, 1976

Rodent Rabies

Author Affiliations

Beth Israel Hospital Boston

JAMA. 1976;235(22):2423. doi:10.1001/jama.1976.03260480043036

The March 15 (vol 235) cover of JAMA refers to an article on rabies with a photograph of a red squirrel and a comment (p 1088) warning that the bite of a red squirrel "can leave one with rabies." In fact, there has never been a case of human rabies in this country attributed to the bite of a squirrel, nor any other rodent (chipmunk, mouse, rat, squirrel).

Rabies is not endemic in rodents. A recent review summarizes the rodent rabies situation in the United States.1 Although 25,000 rodents are examined for rabies annually by various laboratories, only four or five are found to have rabies. There is no evidence that these few confirmed-rabid rodents play any role in the spread of rabies in its major wildlife hosts, the carnivores. Finally, human rabies has never been traced to a rodent, despite the fact that at least 24,000 persons are