Estimation of the incidence of animal rabies in Punjab, India

PLoS One. 2019 Sep 9;14(9):e0222198. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222198. eCollection 2019.


Background: Rabies is a devastating zoonotic disease of mammals that causes encephalitis and death. It is endemic in India, with an estimated annual 20,000 human deaths (one-third of the global rabies burden). The magnitude of animal rabies incidence is unknown.

Methods: In four sub-districts of Punjab, India, we monitored canine and livestock populations from August 15, 2016 to August 14, 2017. Demographic, clinical and rabies diagnostic laboratory (RDL) data were collected from suspected cases of rabies. The annual incidence rate / 10,000 animal years at risk (95% CI) in each sub-district was estimated for each species.

Results: During 2016-2017, a total of 41 suspected rabies cases were detected in the four selected sub-districts in Punjab. Laboratory confirmed rabies (LCR) incidence was 2.03/10,000 dog years (0.69, 5.96) and 2.71/10,000 dog years (1.14, 6.43) in stray and pet dogs, respectively. The LCR incidence in farmed buffalo and cattle was 0.19/10,000 buffalo years (0.07, 0.57) and 0.23/10,000 cattle years (0.06, 0.88), respectively. The LCR incidence amongst equine was 4.28/10,000 equine years (0.48, 38.10). Stray cattle rabies incidence in the selected sub-districts was 9.49/10,000 cattle years (3.51, 25.67). If similar enhanced surveillance for rabies was conducted state-wide, we estimate that 98 (34-294) buffalo, 18 (2-156) equine, 56 (15-214) farmed cattle, 96 (35-259) stray cattle, 128 (54-303) pet dogs and 62 (21-182) stray dogs would be expected to be confirmed with rabies in Punjab annually.

Conclusion: These results indicate that rabies incidence in animals, particularly in dogs and stray cattle, is much higher than previously suspected. We recommend that statewide enhanced disease surveillance should be conducted to obtain more accurate estimates of rabies incidence in Punjab to facilitate better control of this important disease.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Buffaloes
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Dog Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Dogs
  • Horse Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Horses
  • Incidence
  • India / epidemiology
  • Livestock
  • Rabies / epidemiology
  • Rabies / veterinary*

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.