The agency has prohibited the import of dogs from 113 countries classified as high risk for dog rabies effective 14 July.
“This suspension applies to all dogs, including puppies, emotional support dogs, and dogs that traveled out of the United States and are returning from a high-risk country,” the CDC said in a statement.
Emily Pieracci, a veterinary medical officer at the CDC told Reuters that the Covid pandemic had impacted many dog vaccination programmes against the disease around the world.
“Given the impact that Covid has had on these vaccination programmes around the world, we’re not really sure what our rabies landscape is going to look like in the future,” Ms Pieracci said.
Rabies can be fatal in both humans and animals, and the US has been rabies free since 2007, but importing even one rabid animal could lead to transmission to humans, pets, and wildlife.
“This suspension will protect the health and safety of imported dogs by preventing importations of dogs inadequately vaccinated against rabies and will protect the public’s health against the reintroduction of dog rabies,” the agency said.
It also applies to dogs that had previously travelled out of the US and are returning from high-risk countries.
The CDC estimates that around 6 per cent of all dogs imported into the US arrive from countries at high risk for dog rabies.
They noted that the suspension will be temporary and will be reviewed “periodically”.
In public health guidance on the disease, the CDC says that rabies is a fatal but preventable viral disease.
“It can spread to people and pets if they are bitten or scratched by a rabid animal,” the agency says, describing unvaccinated dogs as a “public health threat”.
They warn that if a person does not receive appropriate and timely medical care after a potential rabies exposure, the virus can cause disease in the brain and will likely be fatal.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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