Assessing rabies knowledge gaps in human and animal healthcare professionals practicing in Washington, DC - a one health approach.
Once a person is exposed to the rabies virus, it is universally fatal unless postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) is administered promptly. In the United States, determining whether PEP recommeded is often a collaborative effort where health departments work with both animal and human healthcare professionals to enact animal quarantines (or rabies testing), recommending PEP when appropriate. A failure in the knowledge base of either profession can result in incorrect PEP recommendations and an increased risk of adverse outcomes. To assess rabies knowledge in licensed physicians and veterinarians practicing in Washington, DC, we conducted a survey from December 2, 2016, to January 2, 2017, assessing their knowledge of the clinical signs, epidemiology and the primary vectors of rabies. These responses were compared between the two groups. Physician-specific or veterinary-specific questions regarding the correct PEP schedule and administration site or animal quarantine recommendations, respectively, were also included. Nine hundred and fifty-two physicians and 125 veterinarians responded. Veterinarians were more likely to select the correct vectors and clinical signs in animals than physicians. Physicians more likely selected the correct transmission routes. Less than half of physicians identified the correct PEP schedule (39.4%) and administration site (49.0%). Half of veterinarians (50.0%) correctly identified quarantine length for wildlife-exposed vaccinated dogs compared to only 19.4% for unvaccinated dogs. Several knowledge gaps were identified amongst physicians and veterinarians. Due to the fatal nature of rabies, it is important that all healthcare providers have an understanding of current recommendations. Health departments can work to correct these gaps and serve as a bridge between human and animal healthcare professionals.