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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Rabies in Costa Rica - Next Steps Towards Controlling Bat-Borne Rabies After its Elimination in Dogs

Leon, Bernal; Fallas Gonzalez, Silvia; Miranda Solis, Lisa; Ramirez-Cardoce, Manuel; Moreira-Soto, Andres; Cordero-Solorzano, Juan M.; Hutter, Sabine Elisabeth; Gonzalez-Barrientos, Rocio; Rupprechtl, Charles E.


Rabies is an acute, progressive encephalitis caused by a lyssavirus, with the highest case fatality of any conventional infectious disease. More than 17 different lyssaviruses have been described, but rabies virus is the most widely distributed and important member of the genus. Globally, tens of thousands of human fatalities still occur each year. Although all mammals are susceptible, most human fatalities are caused by the bites of rabid dogs, within lesser developed countries. A global plan envisions the elimination of human rabies cases caused via dogs by the year 2030. The combination of prophylaxis of exposed humans and mass vaccination of dogs is an essential strategy for such success. Regionally, the Americas are well on the way to meet this goal. As one example of achievement, Costa Rica, a small country within Central America, reported the last autochthonous case of human rabies transmitted by a dog at the end of the 1970s. Today, rabies virus transmitted by the common vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus, as well as other wildlife, remains a major concern for humans, livestock, and other animals throughout the region. This review summarizes the historical occurrence of dog rabies and its elimination in Costa Rica, describes the current occurrence of the disease with a particular focus upon affected livestock, discusses the ecology of the vampire bat as the primary reservoir relevant to management, details the clinical characteristics of recent human rabies cases, and provides suggestions for resolution of global challenges posed by this zoonosis within a One Health context.


Costa Rica; lyssavirus; One Health; prophylaxis; rabies; vampire bat; vaccination; zoonosis

Published in

The Yale journal of biology and medicine
2021, Volume: 94, number: 2, pages: 311-329

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology

    Permanent link to this page (URI)