U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version

June 2006


Published by Biological Conservation.


Rabies is a fatal zoonotic disease of mammals; it exacerbates the uncertainty of conserving populations of some threatened mammals (TM). Modeling affords an inexpensive, a priori way of studying key parameters of wildlife rabies transmission, rabies management economics, and TM conservation. Numerous models of rabies transmission have been published. Linear density dependent models predicted that a threshold density (KT 6 1.0), possibly attained by culling or contraception, would eliminate an epizootic through reduced contacts among host animals. Density independent models predicted less advantage of culling and contraception in rabies control due to limited contacts among territorial host animals. Recent stochastic, mixed models offer novel predictions about the role of culling, fertility control, and oral rabies vaccination (ORV) in disease management. Use of a ‘‘threshold successful contact’’ rate (CT) as a parameter in these models predicts that density reduction of host animals will enhance ORV campaigns in non-TM contexts via more efficient bait delivery and vaccination. Economic analyses of medical, public health, and veterinary costs have shown post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and increased pet vaccinations (PV) to be major rabies-caused expenses during and after epizootics in North America. No modeling efforts have examined either the benefits-costs of rabies management strategies to conserve TM or the use of ORV, per se, to conserve TM – an omission due in part to the lack of methodologies for properly valuing TM (potential savings) and the expense or lower priority of using ORV for TM protection. This paper: (1) describes key aspects of rabies-transmission models in wildlife, (2) posits the use of CT to predict disease persistence, (3) reviews selected ORV strategies, economic studies, and benefit–cost models associated with the use of ORV as a means of rabies control in non-TM situations, (4) discusses implications of these models to the conservation of TM, and (5) recommends five steps to improve modeling of rabies transmission (wildlife disease in general), rabies-control economics, and TM conservation.