Date of this Version
The rabies epizootic that had affected raccoon (Procyon lotor) populations in the southeastern United States since the mid-1950s jumped to West Virginia in 1977, the apparent result of importation of raccoons from Florida. During the following 14 years, the disease spread through raccoon populations in the mid-Atlantic states, so that by early 1991 infected raccoons had been identified in areas of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Although raccoons have remained the primary vector of the disease throughout the affected areas, spillover has occurred into other wildlife, including skunks (Mephitis mephitis), red (Vulpes vulpes) and gray (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) foxes, coyotes (Canis latrans), woodchucks (Marmota monax), white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), squirrels (Sciuridae), rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), and opossum (Didelphis marsupialis). As the disease spreads into previously unaffected raccoon populations, an epizootic period exists for 1-2 years, during which the number of cases in raccoons is very high. This has been followed by an enzootic period when cases in raccoons are still common, but far less frequent. The disease has not been observed to disappear from affected raccoon populations.