Rabid Moose Discovered in Western Alaska
The state’s Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) recently confirmed the first moose to be diagnosed with rabies in Alaska.
On June 2, 2023, a moose was detected in and around the community of Teller, Alaska, and acting aggressively toward people. The moose was unbalanced, stumbling, drooling profusely, and had bare patches of skin.
ADF&G staff in Nome consulted with wildlife veterinarian Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen and dispatched the animal that afternoon due to its aggressive behavior and signs suggestive of rabies disease.
Rabies virus in the brain was detected on June 5, 2023, by the Alaska State Virology Laboratory.
On June 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention further confirmed the virus was an Arctic Fox rabies variant. This is the same variant circulating in red foxes during the outbreak in the Nome/Seward Peninsula and North Slope arctic foxes this past winter, suggesting the moose contracted the virus from a fox.
Due to this new case, ADF&G plans to increase rabies surveillance by testing all brain samples from wild mammals found dead or euthanized from regions with enzootic fox rabies, including Western Alaska, when feasible.
Due to the largely solitary nature of moose, it is doubtful that any rabies outbreak will occur in the moose population, but isolated cases such as this one occur rarely.
Moose that are killed by hunters on the Seward Peninsula that show normal behavior and no signs of any abnormality or illness should still be considered safe to consume, says ADF&G.
Rabies is a zoonotic infection found in more than 150 countries and territories, say the World Health Organization (WHO). Unfortunately, almost 60,000 people worldwide die from rabies annually.
According to the WHO, rabies vaccination can prevent infections before and after exposure to the rabies virus.
On May 6, 2022, the U.S. CDC published: Using a Modified Preexposure Prophylaxis Vaccination Schedule to Prevent Human Rabies.