What is the future of wildlife rabies control in Europe?
Smith GC., Thulke H-H., Fooks AR., Artois M., Macdonald DW., Eisinger D., Selhorst T.
Over the last fifteen years or so, classical rabies in terrestrial wildlife has been eliminated from large areas of Western Europe. Over the next few years, terrestrial rabies is likely to occur only east of a line from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea; the overall aim is to eliminate terrestrial rabies from the whole European Union. Elimination of rabies from the less rich countries of Eastern Europe, and the protection of Europe against a resurgence of rabies in the longer term requires modifications to existing OIE and WHO strategies. Here we discuss the options available to eliminate rabies in wildlife while taking account of financial cost, and how to maintain a 'cordon sanitaire' along the eastern boundary of the EU in order to protect the rabies-free areas from rabies incursion. Minimising financial costs at the national level is obviously essential, considering the competing priorities for development and health. This could be achieved either by increasing external funding (for example by the EU) and/or by changing the currently agreed vaccination strategy to reduce costs; any such change must not substantially reduce the chances of rabies elimination. A cordon sanitaire might be placed outside the economic area of the EU, to protect the whole of the EU, or it might be placed within the easternmost countries to ensure logistical consistency of vaccination. Policy must also anticipate an emergency due to rabies breaking out in a previously freed region. Strategic planning may be complicated by the increasing range and abundance of the raccoon dog, an introduced species that is increasingly important as a host for fox rabies. It is argued here that models help to evaluate altemative strategies, exploring options for optimising costs by minimising bait density and frequency or by reducing the vaccination area.