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Animal Health and Welfare (27-09-2013)

Combatting rabies in the EU and beyond

On the occasion of World Rabies Day, 28 September 2013, it should be recalled that the European Commission has been investing, together with Member States, to successfully eradicate rabies both within the EU and in neighbouring non-EU countries.

Some Fast Facts

  • Rabies annually claims more than 50 000 lives worldwide.
  • Rabies is a vaccine-preventable but potentially deadly viral disease that is commonly transmitted to humans from a bite of an infected animal vector such as foxes, wolves or dogs.
  • Rabies cases have disappeared in Western and most of Central Europe.
  • Thanks to EU co-financed eradication programmes, Eastern European countries have also observed a rapid decline in the number of reported rabies case in animals following their entry into the EU in 2004.
  • Since 2010, the rate of EU funding for national rabies programmes has increased to 75%.
  • About €20 million is spent annually on oral vaccination programmes in wildlife in the Member States and bordering areas of neighbouring countries, as the vast majority of rabies cases in the EU occur in those areas.
  • In addition, between 2008-2013 the EU spends about €10 million annually on rabies eradication in the Western Balkans.

Rabies cases in wild animals in Europe 1992 - 2012

1992
2012

EU Pet Passport

Thanks to the EU pet passport, pet owners can freely travel with their pet within the EU provided it has been micro-chipped and has a valid anti-rabies vaccination documented in the pet passport. Additional requirements apply to pets coming from countries where rabies is considered endemic, and border controls at airports, ports and areas near the outer frontiers of the European Union help prevent the introduction of potentially infected animals. Building on this success a new EU Regulation, providing clearer and simpler rules was adopted earlier in 2013.

However, the threat of rabies is ever present, and World Rabies Day serves as a reminder to us all about how cautious we should be when it comes to the safety of ourselves and our pets. Pet owners should understand the risks to the health of their animal in the same way as they consider risks to their own.

Scientific assistance

In 2008, the EU designated ANSES-Nancy ( France) as the EU reference laboratory for rabies. This laboratory offers expertise and advice to Member States' national reference laboratories on scientific, diagnostic and analytic methods for combatting rabies. The laboratory also provides scientific and technical assistance to the European Commission.

Training

The European Commission continues to organise valuable training seminars for national control officers under the Better Training for Safer Food (BTSF) initiative. The European Commission also supports, within the framework of BTSF and through the TAIEX instrument, efforts to combat rabies outside the EU by financing training workshops for laboratories in neighbouring countries.

International coordination

Vaccination of animals (foxes, wolves and dogs) and awareness-raising campaigns require international coordination to successfully wipe out the virus. Europe is actively involved in such efforts. The European Commission works with international organisations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to coordinate international control measures and policies against rabies.

In addition to supporting several international initiatives to combat rabies beyond the EU, the Commission is also a member of the Partners for Rabies Prevention and supported the Global Alliance for Rabies Control in creating the blueprint for canine rabies prevention and control. This multilingual website serves as a guide for countries that would like to prevent human rabies by eliminating canine rabies.