Year of Publication



Public Health

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)

Committee Chair

Wayne Sanderson, PhD

Committee Member

Steven Browning, PhD

Committee Member

Craig Carterm, DVM, PhD, DACVPM, DSNAP



The rabies virus is a zoonotic pathogen that is nearly 100 percent fatal once symptoms occur. Because it is still active in wildlife populations in Kentucky, the need for preventive measures and surveillance is critical. Temperature and precipitation have been shown to affect rabies. This study examined rabies submissions in Kentucky, weather and geographical distribution to both describe and predict cases.


Data from the University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostics laboratory were used to assess rabies submissions from 2005 through 2015. These submissions were anonymously submitted by the public and the Florescent Antibody Test was used to determine infection status. Submissions were totaled across years to interpret distribution over time. The rate of positive submissions over total submissions by county was used to evaluate where rabies occurred in Kentucky. Next, maps were made to assess distribution geographically. Fisher’s exact test was used to determine differences between climate regions. Linear regression was used to examine the association between climate region data and positive rates of submissions.


Yearly distribution of submissions was fairly stable with a spike of both submissions and positive results for the years 2008-2009. Fisher’s Exact test revealed significant differences between climate region. Post-hoc analysis showed a non-significant difference between the northern region of Kentucky compared to other regions. Maps of distribution of positive rates showed a belt of activity in southern Kentucky. A warmer observed regional temperature was a statistically significant predictor of positive rates of rabies submissions in linear regression models for all species as well as bats when considered separately. However, this increase was exceptionally small and provided little clinical significance.


Rabies in Kentucky is still active. While the majority of submissions come from the northern parts of the state, the southern portion of Kentucky has a higher proportion of positive submissions. Based on the results of this study, temperature should be considered when trying to predict future cases of rabies in Kentucky. More research using additional predictors could help establish a stronger relationship.

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