Is it possible for a marine mammal to be infected with rabies?

Any warm-blooded animal can contract rabies. (Warm-blooded animals are those that keep a constant body temperature no matter how cold or hot it gets around them — like us!) We usually hear about cats, dogs, and bats carrying the rabies virus.

Each year, thousands of cases of domesticated and wild animal rabies are reported in the United States. Lots of people in this country are exposed to the often-fatal disease through infected animal contact. The good news is that an anti-rabies vaccine prevents human beings from suffering the horrible effects of rabies, which can hide in the body for days or weeks before attacking the central nervous system. In other parts of the world, 30,000 or more people die every year because they didn't know about or have the vaccine available to them.

Although sea lions, harbor seals, dolphins, and walruses are all marine mammals, official statistics don't suggest that these animals are likely candidates for rabies transmission. Marine mammals do share our world of microbes, however, so we can pass back and forth stuff like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Here are some examples of each, from the first to the last: Streptococcus, Herpes, Candida. Ugh.