At least 50,000 humans develop rabies each year. The overwhelming majority of cases occur in areas where dog rabies is common. Most have a history of having been bitten by a dog. In this country, human rabies is very rare; furthermore, most of the recent human rabies infections in the United States have been caused by variants of the rabies virus associated with bats.
From 1980 through September 2002, there were 46 human rabies cases reported in the United States. Of those, 14 appeared to have been exposed in other countries. Of the remaining 32 people, two were infected with the canine strain of rabies present along the Texas/Mexico border and one was infected by a rabid skunk. The other 29 cases were caused by bat variants of the virus. A definite history of a bat bite was documented for only two of these 29 cases, and only 13 others had any known contact with a bat; no definite history of an encounter with a bat could be established for the remaining cases.
Between 1971 and September 2015, two people have died of rabies in New Jersey.