Exploring animal rabies endemicity to inform control programmes in Punjab, India.
Previous studies estimate that one-third of the annual global burden of rabies (~20,000 cases) occurs in India. Elimination of canine rabies is essential to reduce this burden. Surveillance of animal cases can assess both the risk to humans and the efficacy of control strategies. The objective of this study was to describe the spatial and temporal occurrence of reported confirmed cases of rabies in animals in Punjab, India, from 2004 to 2014. We analysed passive surveillance data on 556 samples submitted from 2004 to 2014 to GADVASU, Ludhiana, Punjab, India. Regression and time series analyses were conducted to understand seasonal and long-term variation of cases and identify cross-correlation of monthly cases between species. Spatio-temporal analyses assessed spatial autocorrelation of date of reporting, mean geographic centres of disease occurrence and clustering of cases using Kulldorff's space-time permutation statistic. The annual number of submissions and proportion of confirmed cases were consistent throughout 2004-2014. Most submissions (320; 57.6%) were confirmed rabies cases, including dogs (40.6%), buffalo (29.7%) and cattle (23.1%). Regression analysis of monthly cases in dogs showed seasonal variation with significant increases in cases in March and August. Monthly case numbers in buffalo decreased over time. Long-term temporal trend was not detected in dog and cattle cases. Time-series models identified significant cross-correlation between dog and buffalo cases, suggesting that buffalo cases were spillover events from dogs. Significant spatio-temporal variation or clusters of cases were not detected. These results indicate that rabies cases in animals-and therefore, the potential for exposure to humans-were temporally and spatially stable during 2004-2014 in Punjab, India. The endemic nature of rabies transmission in this region demands a coordinated, sustained control programme. This study provides baseline information for assessing the efficacy of rabies control measures and developing seasonally targeted dog vaccination and rabies awareness strategies.