Fighting rabies is important in Finland even though the country is free from the disease


<div>Rabies is a very common disease worldwide, which claims hundreds of thousands of human lives annually. Finland has been officially free from rabies since 1991. Vaccination is the most important way of preventing rabies, which is still common in areas close to Finland. Without proper vaccinations imported dogs may spread rabies to Finland. World Rabies Day will be held on Saturday 8.9.2007.</div>

In Finland, vaccine baits intended for wild animals are spread twice a year on the south-eastern border in order to stop rabies from spreading to the country via wild animals. Evira is responsible for spreading the vaccine. Evira also continually tests wild and domestic animals suffering from any suspected symptoms of rabies. Finland co-operates with the EU countries and Russia on research into and prevention of rabies.

Rabies is prevented by vaccination, diagnosis and research co-operation.

Vaccination is the most important way of preventing rabies. When importing dogs, cats and ferrets to Finland, for example a rabies vaccination or a rabies vaccination and a test showing a sufficient level of antibodies is required, depending on which country the animal is being imported from. Instructions on these import requirements are found on Evira’s home page at the address /

Dogs imported without adequate vaccinations form the greatest threat to Finland’s rabies free status. If acquiring a dog from overseas, it is necessary to try to ensure in every way, that the animal really has been vaccinated against rabies.

Dogs used for burrow hunting have to be vaccinated against rabies annually, other hunting dogs and the service dogs of the authorities at least every second year. In addition, Evira recommends that pet dogs and cats in Finland be vaccinated regularly.

We aim at preventing the spread of rabies to Finland through wild animals by vaccination.  80 000 vaccine baits aimed at raccoon dogs and foxes are spread on the south-eastern border of Finland in spring and autumn. Small predators are vaccinated also in Russia by the spreading of vaccine baits on their side of the border. A wild fox, raccoon dog, wolf or any other predator animal that behaves unnaturally has to be reported to the municipal or provincial veterinary officer.

Evira continually tests wild animals and other animals suffering from any suspected symptoms of rabies. At Evira scientific research related to rabies is also being done. In the Finnish and Russian joint research project rabies viruses isolated from different areas are classified by type. In addition, the effect of the vaccinations is studied using the blood samples of small predators.

The European Union and its close neighbours have sought to increase their co-operation in the fight against rabies. In Finland a meeting was held last December, at which was covered, the rabies situation in the EU countries and Russia, EU funding programs, experiences from the co-operation between Finland and Russia and different countries’ predator vaccination programs.  The presentations from the meeting have recently been published on the homepage of the European commission at the address

Rabies is common around the world

Combating rabies is continual and arduous work. Authorities, researchers, hunters and most of all, all the animal owners and those who travel with the animals are part of this work. Rabies is a viral disease of mammals that results in death. It is mainly transmitted by a bite from a diseased dog, bat or another animal. Rabies is a zoonosis, that is to say it can be transmitted from the bite of a diseased animal to humans. After the symptoms have appeared the disease will always lead to the death of both animals and humans. The incubation period of the disease is long (up to six months) and the animal can spread the infection a couple of days before the symptoms appear.

Rabies has been combated single-mindedly in Finland for decades. After the epidemic of 1988-1989, Finland achieved official rabies-free status in 1991, and since then rabies has not been found in Finnish animals. On the other hand, rabies was found in a horse imported from Estonia in 2003. The goal is to keep Finland free from the disease in the future as well.

The rabies situation worldwide is not as good as it is in Finland. In the last few years rabies has become endemic in Eastern Europe in small predators and it is also found in pets. It is also endemic in many Asian countries and in Africa. In America, rabies in bats, in particular, is common. It is important for the traveller to remember not to pat strange dogs and cats in countries where rabies is found. In many European countries the systematic fight against the disease has, however, been effective, and the reduction or elimination of rabies in predators has also reduced the number of pets getting the disease.  

For additional information, please contact:
Veterinarian Miia Jakava-Viljanen, Evira, Virology Unit, tel. 02077 24587, 050 351 0308
Veterinarian Liisa Kaartinen, Evira, Virology Unit, tel. 02077 24577, 040 480 7364
Senior Veterinary Officer Lea Pessi, Evira, Animal Health and Welfare Unit (import of animals), tel. 02077 24331

Telephone advice for import and export of animals: +358 (0)20690991 (between 9.00-11.00), e-mail
World Rabies Day Internet pages:

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