The primary reservoirs of the rabies virus in Wisconsin are bats and skunks (Figures 1 and 2). Domestic animals almost always become infected from exposure to these wildlife reservoirs. Historically, skunks have been the predominant species infected by rabies, but for the past decade, the number of positive bats has exceeded that of skunks (Figure 1). The last four cases of human rabies in Wisconsin occurred in 1959, 2000, 2004, and 2010. All four persons contracted the disease from bats.
Geographically, animal rabies cases are widely dispersed in Wisconsin, and occur in both rural and urban areas. Figure 3 shows the geographic distribution and species of cases diagnosed from 2008 through 2012.