MANHATTAN, Kansas -- New research findings at Kansas State University may mean the difference between life and death for ferrets that have bitten humans.
Speaking from the Rabies in the Americas conference this week in Kingston,Ontario, Deborah Briggs, director of Kansas State University's RabiesLaboratory, said that findings on the virus shedding period for ferretswere presented to the Compendium of Animal Rabies Control Committee attheir annual meeting in October.
As a result of three years of research on the pathogenesis of NorthAmerican rabies virus strains, the Compendium of Animal Rabies ControlCommittee voted to change regulations to allow quarantine of ferretsrather than requiring euthanasia in bite cases. This research wasconducted as a joint effort between the Centers for Disease Control inAtlanta and Kansas State University.
Recommendations by the Compendium of Animal Rabies Control Committee areused by public-health veterinarians to make policy recommendations ondisposition of ferret bite cases, so Briggs' research will have wideimplications for the ferret community.
Until now, rabies control recommendations from the Compendium of AnimalRabies Control Committee required that ferrets that have bitten humans beeuthanized. The change in the recommendations concerning ferrets that bitehumans will impact most, if not all, state rabies regulations, Briggssaid. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is currently in theprocess of rewriting the rabies regulations in Kansas to reflect these newrecommendations.
Briggs research suggests that ferrets may be observed for a period of 10days, identical to the period recommended for dogs and cats in bite cases.
Although the first licensed rabies vaccine was approved for use indomestic ferrets in 1990, healthy, vaccinated ferrets that bite humansroutinely have been euthanized and examined for rabies rather than beingheld and observed. That happened, Briggs said, because there was a lack ofinformation on ferret response to rabies virus infection.
"Until we completed this research we didn't know how long the virusshedding period was for ferrets," Briggs said. The shedding period is thetime an infected animal can pass the virus to another, most commonlythrough biting.The three-year project was supported by the Morris Animal Foundation,Intervet Inc., Rhone Merieux Inc., and Marshall Ferret Farms, withcooperation from the Centers for Disease Control.
Briggs' laboratory does most of the testing of animals in the UnitedStates going to rabies-free areas in the world.
"We conduct all rabies serological testing for animals owned by civiliansgoing to Hawaii," Briggs said. "Last year we tested 30,000 samples andthis year we will exceed that amount. We test most animals going toAustralia, New Zealand, British Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Hong Kong,and other rabies-free countries like Norway. Animal samples are submittedfrom throughout the world. In addition we continue to conduct mostserological testing for humans that have been vaccinated. We are currentlyinvolved in testing samples from France, Thailand, and are collaboratingon a study to investigate the immune response of immunosuppressed humansto rabies vaccines.
"The laboratory is also the only rabies diagnostic laboratory in the stateof Kansas. We work closely with the Centers for Disease Control as far assurveillance of rabid animals in Kansas is concerned."
Materials provided by Kansas State University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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