Infrared thermography was evaluated as a technique to determine if raccoons (Procyon lotor) experimentally infected with rabies virus could be differentiated from noninfected raccoons. Following a 10-day adjustment period, raccoons (n = 6) were infected with a virulent rabies street strain raccoon variant by injection into the masseter muscle at a dose of 2 × 104 tissue-culture infectious dose (TCID50) in 0.2 ml (n = 4) or 105 TCID50 in 1 ml (n = 2). Five of the six raccoons developed prodromal signs of rabies 17 to 22 days postinoculation (PI) and distinctive clinical signs of furious rabies between 19 and 24 days PI. At the time of euthanasia, which occurred 2 days after the onset of clinical signs of rabies, these five raccoons tested positive for rabies virus in brain tissue. Infrared thermal images of each raccoon were recorded twice daily during the preinoculation and PI periods. No apparent differences were identified among thermal temperatures compared among days for the eye, average body surface, and body temperature recorded from subcutaneous implants throughout the experiment for any of the six raccoons. However, increases in infrared surface temperature of the noses and differences in the visual thermal images of the noses were detected when animals began showing clinical signs of rabies. Differences were detected among the mean infrared nose temperatures for the disease progression intervals (F3,12 = 70.03, P < 0.0001). The mean nose temperature in the clinical rabies stage (30.4 ± 3.5°C) was significantly elevated over the prodromal stage (F1,12 = 151.85, P < 0.0001). This experiment provides data indicating that infrared thermography can be used in an experimental setting to detect raccoons in the infectious stage and capable of exhibiting clinical signs of rabies.
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Vol. 37 • No. 4