In recent months, a number of people have died in the EU as a result of rabies. In almost all cases, those affected caught the disease through lesions caused by domesticated animals – mainly cats – outside the EU. However, there is at least one case, on the Island of Re, in France, in which the animal spreading the disease had been registered by the local pet registry. Although this disease has officially been eradicated in the EU, in some European regions, where the volume of road traffic between Europe and Africa is a particularly high, veterinary schools are considering the need to reintroduce the requirement that pets be vaccinated in order to avoid the risk of contagion. Given that animals and pets are often transited between Europe and third countries where the disease has not been eradicated, this measure would appear to be advisable.
1. Does the Commission have any data on the number of instances of rabies contagion within the EU?
2. What measures is the Commission taking to prevent contagion as a result of the transiting of pets and animals between the EU and countries where rabies has not been eradicated?
3. Is the Commission planning to review, together with the Member States, vaccination strategies and other preventive measures?
Infection with rabies is almost eradicated in the EU. While more than 1,500 animal cases were declared by Member States via the Animal Disease Notification System in 2010, only two cases have been declared in 2020 up to 24 March. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control ensures surveillance in humans and compiles annual surveillance reports.
In humans, in 2018 (latest year available) only one case of travel-related rabies with exposure in Morocco was reported by the United Kingdom. For 2017, one case of travel-related rabies was reported by France with exposure in Sri Lanka.
Concerning the risks posed by the movement of pets, EC law regulates comprehensively the movements of dogs, cats and ferrets between Member States and their entry from non-EU countries. The requirements for these movements include compulsory anti-rabies vaccination, with certain derogations for young animals.
In addition, the EU is funding anti-rabies vaccination campaigns in wildlife in Member States at the eastern border of the EU and in bordering non-EU countries in order to complete the eradication of the disease in wildlife in the EU.
At this stage, the Commission is not planning to review the current measures.