International Journal of Circumpolar Health (Jan 2018)

Rabies in Alaska, from the past to an uncertain future

  • Karsten Hueffer,
  • Molly Murphy

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 77, no. 1


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Rabies is a serious zoonotic disease with significant public health consequences in the circumpolar North. Recent studies have advanced our understanding of the disease ecology in Alaska. In this paper, we review historical records of rabies in Alaska ranging from the late nineteenth century to the present, analyse the public health impact in the state and review studies on disease ecology before assessing challenges and anticipated altered disease dynamics in the face of a rapidly changing North. Rabies is a disease that has been present in Alaska continuously for over 100 years. It is maintained in bats and foxes with the arctic fox likely playing a bigger role in maintaining the virus, although a multi-host system with both red and arctic foxes cannot be excluded. Some modelling evidence suggest a possible decrease in rabies due to a changing climate, although uncertainty is high around these predictions for rabies distribution in Alaska into the future.