Eliminating rabies is challenging in many developing countries, especially in rural areas. In contrast to the annual decline of human cases in China in last decade, the incidence of rabies in livestock has been increasingly reported. This paper reports the rabies outbreaks in beef cattle (Angus) in Shaanxi Province, China, which caused 31 and 5 deaths at an attack rate of 19.4% (95% CI: 13.6%-26.4%) and 0.25% (95% CI: 0.1%-0.6%) in a satellite cow farm (farm A) and a core intensive farm (farm B), respectively. The rabies infection was confirmed by several laboratory tests, and rabies virus (RABV) strains SXBJ15 and SXYL15 were isolated and characterized from farm A and B, respectively. The two strains were found to have a high genomic sequence similarity to the dog-associated China clade I strains previously identified in the neighboring area. SXBJ15 was shown to have a higher mouse pathogenicity (1.07) than SXYL15 (0.45). RABV was also detected in the saliva and salivary glands from the affected cattle. The potential causes were investigated on the farm, and the biosecurity scores were 20 and 64 (a full score of 82) for farms A and B, respectively. The rabies infection is likely to result from rabid free-roaming dogs (FRDs). On farm A with more cow deaths, the rabies transmission between animals can be attributed to the improper disposal of aborted fetuses and placental materials as a food source for rabid FRDs, high stocking density, and drinking water sharing. Additionally, vaccinating cattle with a canine vaccine was shown to help stop the spread of rabies in herds. These results indicate that the occurrence of RABV on cattle farms can be prevented by improving biosecurity measures to control the entry of rural FRDs on the farm and immunizing farm cattle against rabies.
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