I just saw this 2009 article Can a Whale Get Rabies? which includes this statement,

Although there is absolutely no record of a rabid whale, and only one documented case of rabies in a seal—a ringed seal caught in 1980 in Svalbard, an archipelago off Norway—the scenario may soon be of greater concern. "Starting 10 years ago, coyotes began to prey on harp seals here on Cape Cod," Moore says. "Because of that, I like for my staff to get vaccinated. There's a very small chance that a seal will have rabies."

It would seem that there is a vector for rabies to cross oceans and potentially infect land mammals, slight but plausible... It has been nearly 10 years since the article.

Is there any documentation of a person getting rabies from a marine mammal?

  • Interesting question but I suspect it comes down to one of those theoretical risks that's so unlikely we'll never see it happen. (And now I'll see it on the news within the week.) Dec 6, 2017 at 4:52

1 Answer 1


The WHO reports no rabies contracted from marine life.

Rabies (World Health Oorganization)

However, many kinds of marine mammals, such as seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, and - especially - killer whales, can be carriers. The vector typically starts with a land mammal, like an infected dog, coyote, or polar bear attacking its prey (said sea lion or seal). These become infected; in turn, killer whales (orcas) are the next most-prone marine mammal, because they are the largest and most likely to attack.

Marine Safety Trainers

It is rare for marine animals to contract rabies, for the reason that land-dwelling rabies-carrying mammals are so rare; once in the ocean, spread to other mammals is rare, because these mammals do not normally attack in a way that rabies can spread easily.

Nevertheless, diseases spread to humans is not well understood. This article is from Inter-Research Science Center, and they did a clinical study of marine animal injuries to humans, and nowhere is rabies ever mentioned. They even discuss native tribes who hunt seals for meat, and record no rabies injuries there. (There are many diseases passed; it's just that none of them is rabies).

Health risks for marine mammal workers

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