Epidemiology and Infection

Research Article

Survey of fox trappers in northern Alaska for rabies antibody

E. H. Follmanna1 c1, D. G. Rittera2 and M. Bellera3

a1 Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks;

a2 State Public Health Laboratory-Fairbanks, Alaska Division of Public Health, Fairbanks, Alaska;

a3 Section of Epidemiology, Alaska Division of Public Health, Anchorage, Alaska


The purpose of this research was to determine whether trappers in northern Alaska acquired immunity to rabies virus from non-bite exposures while trapping and skinning arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus). In coastal Alaska recurring epizootics presumably provide trappers ample opportunity for contact with rabid animals. Serum neutralization analyses of blood samples collected from 26 individuals were conducted. All but three had negative rabies neutralizing antibody levels (< 0·05 I.U./ml). Two of these had previously received rabies vaccine but one individual who had trapped for about 47 years with an estimated harvest of over 3000 foxes and who had never received pre- or post-exposure rabies vaccination had a rabies serum neutralizing antibody concentration of 2·30 I.U./ml. This represents the first report of an unvaccinated person acquiring rabies virus antibody with a titre above the 0·5 I.U./ml level considered acceptable by the World Health Organization.

(Accepted February 10 1994)


c1 For correspondence and reprints: Dr Erich H. Follmann. Institute of Arctic Biology, P.O. Box 757000. University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000, U.S.A.