Leishmaniasis is transmitted by the bite of insects, phlebotomine sandflies. If left untreated, the disease can prove fatal. The WHO, indeed, considers it to be a priority, ranking alongside HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. This parasitic disease can also be transmitted by dogs to humans (zoonosis). Having initially occurred in the Mediterranean region, it is now spreading towards northern Europe. For many years animal welfare organisations have been importing large numbers of Spanish greyhounds (galgos), which are often infected with the disease or healthy carriers, from Spain into France. The work of these organisations is essential if animals are to be spared from dying a miserable death in their country of origin, but, be that as it may, health measures have to be taken in order to contain the spread of leishmaniasis in France (organisations should be required to put their animals in quarantine).
1. What specific measures will the Commission take to avert this major health risk to France and the EU?
2. Will it step up veterinary inspections of dogs entering the EU?
The Commission is aware that the movement of Leishmania-infected dogs from endemic regions (mainly Mediterranean countries, including Southern France) might represent a risk of introducing and spreading canine leishmaniosis into non-endemic countries.
In order to support the Commission in the possible preparation of an act aiming at laying down preventive health measures to ensure protection of those Member States in which an endemic infection is not recorded, the Commission requested the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to assess the available scientific information regarding canine leishmaniosis and to evaluate the relevance of measures aiming at mitigating the risk of introducing the disease through the movement of dogs.
The recent EFSA Scientific Opinion concluded that no vaccine developed so far is able to confer full protection against the disease, efficacy of topically applied insecticides is uncertain and no reference test is available which would detect all the truly infected animals. EFSA made recommendations for further research on Leishmania and its known competent vectors and for travellers with and importers of dogs from endemic into non-endemic areas.
In the absence of solid knowledge about the disease and of request from any Member State claiming freedom of the disease, the Commission does not envisage starting any preparatory work for a possible act to be adopted pursuant to Regulation (EU) No 576/2013.