Do not import rabies into Finland

26.9.2008

<div>Rabies is an extremely common disease on the global scale and every year 50 000–60 000 people die from this disease. Finland has been an officially rabies-free country since 1991. However, imported dogs and cats that have not been duly vaccinated may bring rabies into Finland. Vaccination is the primary means to prevent rabies, which is still commonly found in the neighbouring regions of Finland. The World Rabies Day will be observed on Sunday, 28 September 2008.</div>

Finland has for decades implemented control measures to combat rabies. After the epidemic in 1988–1989 Finland gained the official status of a rabies-free country in 1991 and rabies has never been diagnosed in Finnish animals since. The aim is to maintain Finland free from this disease also in the future.

Observe regulations governing import of pets

Dogs, cats and ferrets imported to Finland have to have been vaccinated against rabies, and depending on the country of origin, rabies antibody testing may also be required besides the vaccination.

Imported dogs and cats that have not been duly vaccinated constitute the greatest threat to the rabies free status of Finland. A dog or a cat imported without appropriate vaccinations from a country where rabies occurs carries a high risk of the disease. The risk is particularly high with animals whose background is unknown, such as rescue and stray dogs and cats. Bringing animals like this into Finland may in the worst case also threaten the health of the owners and their families. In November 2007 a puppy imported from India was in poor condition and had to be put down by a veterinary surgeon. Evira examined the puppy and found it to be infected with rabies. The puppy had been brought from India in violation of regulations in force and with deficient documents.

Vaccinate your pet

Dogs used as burrow dogs must be vaccinated against rabies every year, other hunting dogs as well as military dogs, police dogs, etc. every two years. Moreover, Evira recommends that all Finnish pet dogs and cats be vaccinated on a regular basis.

Rabies prevention based on vaccination of small predators and examination of suspected animals

A vaccination programme is in place in Finland to prevent rabies from entering the country through wild animals. Every spring and autumn 80000 vaccine baits are dropped from airplanes in the southeast Finland to immunise raccoon dogs and foxes. Russia implements a similar bait vaccination programme in the Russian territory. The objective is to prevent rabies from spreading into the country through wild predators. Evira is in charge of these airdrops in Finland.

Evira examines wild predators and other animals with suspicious signs for rabies on a continuous basis. All sightings of abnormally behaving wild foxes, raccoon dogs, wolves and other predators must be reported to the municipal or provincial veterinarians. The samples of small predators sent by hunters are essential in the control of rabies among wild animals.

Rabies is common on global scale and control measures are continuous

The global rabies status is not as good as in Finland. Rabies has in the recent years become more common in small predators in Eastern Europe and is also found in domestic animals. It is also common in many Asian countries and Africa. In America, rabies is particularly common in bats. However, systematic prevention efforts have proven effective in many European countries and the reduction or eradication of rabies among wild predators has reduced the disease incidence also in domestic animals.

Rabies is a fatal viral disease of mammals, and primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected dog, bat or other animal. Rabies is a zoonosis, which means that it can be transmitted also to humans through the bite of an infected animal. Once the disease reaches the symptomatic stage, it is always fatal in both animals and humans. The incubation period of rabies is long (up to six months) and an animal can transmit the disease already a few days before it shows any signs.

For more information, please contact:
Liisa Kaartinen, Evira, Head of Unit, Animal Virology Research Unit, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24577, +358 (0) 40 840 7364
Tiia Tuupanen, Veterinary Officer, Animal Health and Wellbeing Unit, tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24215, +358 (0) 400 318 510
Virva Valle, Senior Officer, Animal Health and Wellbeing Unit (import of animals), tel. +358 (0) 20 77 24309
Riitta Rahkonen, Senior Veterinary Officer, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, tel. +358 (0) 9 1605 3280, +358 (0) 40 356 7675
Ville Lehtinen, Infectious Disease Specialist, National Public Health Institute, Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, tel. +358 (0) 9 4744 8557

Import and export of animals, information telephone: +358 (0) 20 69 0991 (09.00–11.00), e-mail ehyt@evira.fi

More information available on the Internet:
Instructions for import of dogs, cats and ferrets
www.evira.fi > Animals and health > Import and export

World Rabies Day
http://www.worldrabiesday.org/



 


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