Rabies control –

© Martin Moskov

Most of the following information has come from the website of the World Health Organization (WHO): http://www.who.int/

For more information, you can also consult the WHO Rabies Bulletin.




Rabies is an acute virus disease of the nervous system of mammals that is caused by a rhabdovirus (species Rabies virus of the genus Lyssavirus) usually transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal and that is characterised typically by increased salivation, abnormal behaviour, and eventual paralysis and death when untreated (source: Merriam-Webster dictionary). Rabies kills more than 70,000 people a year.


Dogs and rabies

Various figures have been produced over the years. Here are some examples:

In 1999, the OIE stated that dogs are the animals most often affected by rabies and that more than 95% of human cases of rabies are due to bites from infected dogs.

According to a 2010 study by Judith E. Tintinalli, more than 99% of rabies cases in countries where dogs commonly have rabies are caused by dog bites.

In 2014, the WHO stated that in the Americas less than 5% of rabies cases in humans are from dogs. Most of them have been from bats instead.


Controlling rabies in dogs

It is estimated that at least 50 million dogs are vaccinated each year against rabies either in private practices or during national campaigns organised by ministries of health or agriculture.

However, mass culling of dogs is also still used in certain countries as the main measure to combat dog rabies.

Recommendations of the Expert Consultation on Rabies held in Geneva in October 2004 (TRS 931, WHO 2005) point out that:

·         "Dog destruction alone is not effective in rabies control. There is no evidence that removal of dogs alone has ever had a significant impact on dog population densities or the spread of rabies. In addition, dog removal may be unacceptable to local communities. However, the targeted and humane removal of unvaccinated, ownerless dogs may be effective when used as a supplementary measure to mass vaccination.

·         Mass canine vaccination campaigns have been the most effective measure for controlling canine rabies. High vaccination coverage (70% or higher) can be attained through comprehensive strategies consisting among others of well-designed educational campaigns, inter-sectoral cooperation, community participation, local commitment in planning and execution.

·         Surveillance of rabies is the basis for any programme of rabies control. Veterinary surveillance of rabies and laboratory submission of reports of suspected animal cases is also essential for management of potential human exposures and for veterinarians to adopt appropriate measures towards animals in contact with a suspected animal case.

·         Efforts should be made to fully incorporate rabies control activities in all levels of the health services, aligning them with other public health programmes such as the Expanded programme on immunization and those for tuberculosis and vector-borne diseases".

According to the World Health Organization, rabies can be controlled only by systematic vaccination of humans and domestic animals like dogs (mainly injections, although oral vaccinations are currently being tested on dogs).


Rabies in Europe

Asia and Africa are the continents most affected by rabies. Thanks to 50 years of intensive vaccination campaigns, Europe is today almost rabies-free (please see the WHO map below).


Here is the list of European countries with rabies-free status:

  • Austria, 
  • United Kingdom, 
  • Ireland, 
  • Belgium,
  • the Netherlands, 
  • Luxembourg, 
  • France,
  • Switzerland, 
  • Portugal, 
  • Italy, 
  • Spain, 
  • Greece, 
  • Cyprus
  • Malta, 
  • Germany, 
  • Denmark, 
  • Norway, 
  • Sweden, 
  • Finland, 
  • Estonia, 
  • Czech Republic,
  • Iceland
  • Lithuania

N.B. Slovakia was on the list but was removed in 2013 after the discovery of 6 rabies cases in foxes.

Rabies risk

Please find here a very good presentation from Helene Klein (EU Commission, DG SANTE) on Rabies risk to the EU from dogs and cats introduced from endemic countries, including case studies: 2013112021_rabies_en

The EU and rabies

In the EU, seven countries are still not rabies-free: Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. Moreover, some other countries have been rabies-free for only a short time. As in previous years, in 2013 the EU Commission validated a 10-year Programme of Monitoring, Control and Eradication of rabies in several countries. This programme is partially financed by the EU.

Here are the levels of EU financial participation in the programme (timeframe and State):

Until 2014 Until 2015 Until 2016 Until 2018 Until 2019

EUR 1 790 000 for Bulgaria

EUR 510 000 for Estonia

EUR 165 000 for Italy

EUR 2 600 000 for Lithuania

EUR 1 970 000 for Hungary

EUR 7 470 000 for Poland

EUR 5 500 000 for Romania

EUR 285 000 for Slovakia

EUR 3 210 000 for Greece

EUR 250 000 for Finland

EUR 1 225 000 for Latvia

EUR 1 700 000 for Croatia

EUR 800 000 for Slovenia










Rabies Control Tools

The Global Alliance for Rabies Control has created useful tools:

  • Canine Rabies Blueprint: Comprehensive guidance on implementing a rabies control and prevention programme
  • Rabies Educator Certificate: Online course for people who want to raise awareness about rabies in their communities
  • The campaign "End rabies Now" https://endrabiesnow.org/
  • They also have an Animal Handler and Vaccinator Education Certificate online course which is just being launched, and that can also be accessed from the same link.