September 28, 2021: World Rabies Day

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Dog bites are the transmission route for a variety of diseases, including rabies, which still kills approximately 59,000 people worldwide each year (1). The Arctic rabies virus variant (ARVV) circulates permanently among Arctic fox populations in many parts of the Arctic, including northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Svalbard, and northern Russia (2-5). Therefore, human exposure to ARVVs through dog bites occurs regularly in these areas (6,7). Usually, the most effective and least expensive way to control rabies is to vaccinate dogs. But in most Arctic communities, access to this vaccine is limited, which has two consequences. First, it can increase the risk of transmission from fox to dog to human. Secondly, in case of potential human exposure, post-exposure prophylaxis becomes the only way to prevent human infection. Administered on the same day, this protocol is effective but costly and time consuming (14 days) (8).

Climate change may increase the incidence of ARVV in wild and domestic animals in the coming decades by altering the movements and interactions of Arctic and red fox populations. As a result, public health concerns are increasing regarding the risk of bites in these particular regions (2,9).

The One Health Laboratory is conducting numerous research projects to better prevent rabies in northern Canadian communities. Follow us to learn more!


Adapted from Daigle L, Delesalle L, Ravel A, Ford B, Aenishaenslin C. Occurrence and Risk Factors of Dog Bites in Northern Indigenous Communities: A Scoping Review. (Manuscript in preparation)



1.                WHO, FAO, OIE. ZERO BY 30: The Global Strategic Plan to end human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030 (2018). [Accessed July 22, 2020]

2.                Aenishaenslin C, Page D, Gagnier M, Massé A, Fehlner-Gardiner C, Lambert L, et al. Prioritisation of areas for early detection of southward movement of arctic fox rabies based on historical surveillance data in Quebec, Canada. Epidemiol Infect (2020). 149:e20. doi: 10.1017/S0950268820003003.

3.                Mork T, Prestrud A. Arctic rabies - A review. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica (2004). 45(1–2):1–9. doi: 10.1186/1751-0147-45-1

4.                Orpetveit I, Ytrehus B, Vikoren T, Handeland K, Mjos A, Nissen S, et al. Rabies in an Arctic fox on the Svalbard archipelago, Norway, January 2011. Euro Surveill (2011). 16(7). doi: 10.2807/ese.16.07.19797-en

5.                Tabel H, Corner AH, Webster WA, Casey CA. History and epizootiology of rabies in Canada. Can Vet J (1974). 15(10):271–281.

6.                Mediouni S, Brisson M, Ravel A. Epidemiology of human exposure to rabies in Nunavik: incidence, the role of dog bites and their context, and victim profiles. BMC Public Health (2020). 20(1):584. doi: 10.1186/s12889-020-08606-8

7.                Aenishaenslin C, Simon A, Forde T, Ravel A, Proulx J-F, Fehlner-Gardiner C, et al. Characterizing rabies epidemiology in remote Inuit communities in Québec, Canada: a “One Health” approach. Ecohealth (2014). 11(3):343–355. doi: 10.1007/s10393-014-0923-1

8.                Rabies Postexposure Prophylaxis (PEP) | Medical Care | Rabies | CDC. (2019, juin 11).

9.                Huettmann F, Magnuson EE, Hueffer K. Ecological niche modeling of rabies in the changing Arctic of Alaska. Acta Vet Scand (2017). 59(1):18. doi: 10.1186/s13028-017-0285-0