Dogs, cats, foxes and other small carnivores serve as reservoir hosts.
Cattle become infected by oral inoculation of virus, usually via bites. Incubation periods vary from one to 12 months. Lyssaviruses travel via the peripheral nerves to the spinal cord and ascend to the brain. Virus is shed intermittently in the saliva.
In terminal stages, paralysis and lateral recumbency occur prior to death.
Clinical diagnosis is based on circumstantial evidence of neurological signs and death, supported with laboratory testing.
Immunofluorescence microscopy of fresh brain tissue is considered the gold method of diagnosis in most affected animals.
Government notification is mandatory and culling of cattle herds and all other carnivores in the vicinity is usually required, followed by quarantine methods in the surrounding farms.
Prophylactic vaccine protocols are well established in small animals worldwide.
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- Merck Vet Manual
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