The number of animal rabies cases has doubled in Ukraine: State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection names reasons and rules of behavior with rabid animals

The number of animal rabies cases has doubled in Ukraine: State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection names reasons and rules of behavior with rabid animals

Kyiv  •  UNN

February 23 2024, 01:43 PM  •  231890 views

Due to martial law restricting oral rabies vaccination of wild animals and immunization of domestic animals, Ukraine saw a 2.3-fold increase in rabies cases among animals in 2023 compared to 2022.

The main reason for the rapid increase in the number of rabies cases among animals is the limited ability to implement a set of rabies control measures due to martial law. In 2022, no immunization of wild animals was carried out and was resumed only in 2023, and then only partially. In an interview with UNN, Serhiy Tkachuk, Head of the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection, spoke about the causes of the disease, its consequences, and ways to resolve the problem.

There is an increase in the number of rabies cases among animals in Ukraine. Can you tell us about the causes and measures taken?

Indeed, since last year, we have been recording an increase in rabies cases in animals compared to previous years. If we compare 2023 with 2022, we have a 2.3-fold increase.

There is only one reason for this: due to martial law, we have limited opportunities to implement a set of measures to combat rabies. This includes not only vaccination of domestic animals, but also oral immunization of wild carnivores, depopulation of predators, treatment of stray animals in terms of vaccination, monitoring of the epizootic situation, systematic survey of wildlife habitats, etc. This is not the work of a single agency, but the cooperation of the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection, local communities, volunteer organizations, forestry and hunting associations.

Wild carnivores are considered to be the main source of the disease agent. It is known that at the beginning of martial law, oral immunization against rabies among wild carnivores was not carried out. Will the campaign for oral immunization of wild carnivores be resumed in 2023?

Yes, but not in all regions of Ukraine. It should be noted that these campaigns are possible only if the baits are distributed on the ground, due to the ban on the use of airspace as a result of the introduction of martial law in Ukraine. It is quite logical that a smaller area of land is treated, the treatment of land that is difficult to reach by a person, etc.

Working groups were created that included veterinarians, foresters, hunters, etc.

Together, we have accomplished a large amount of work, namely, 118,710.816 km² of the territory of Ukraine were treated with oral immunization.

In addition, our veterinarians administered parenteral vaccinations to 4.9 million pets and conducted a large-scale information campaign involving the media, local communities, NGOs and associations.

It should also be noted that we are unable to carry out our work in the areas of hostilities. And, as everyone understands, it is impossible to control the migration of animals. That is why the work of the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection in the frontline regions is extremely important.

We are currently actively cooperating with local communities and urge citizens to remember to vaccinate their pets over 3 months of age every year. To do this, you just need to contact the veterinary hospitals of the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection in your region.

What measures does the State Service of Ukraine on Food Safety and Consumer Protection plan to take this year

We do not plan to rest on our laurels in 2024. We plan to vaccinate pets, cooperate with regional military administrations to conduct peroral immunization campaigns and cover a much larger cultivation area, and conduct an information campaign to raise public awareness of rabies control. It is necessary to explain to the public how important it is to vaccinate their pets annually. This will not only protect the health of the animal, but also the health of your own family. Rabies is a common disease for both humans and animals.

Does sanitary hunting solve the problem of adjusting the number of animals?

This requires permission from regional military administrations. The issue of obtaining permission to conduct sanitary shooting of predators is considered at meetings of the regional defense council and then at meetings of state emergency antiepizootic commissions at the appropriate level. The groups that bring the density of predatory animals to the established norms include users of hunting grounds and the hunting service.

Local governments shall notify the National Police and the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection of the date and place of the measures to be taken.

Approval for diagnostic shooting of wild carnivores (red foxes) was obtained in Vinnytsia, Volyn, Dnipropetrovs'k, Zhytomyr, Zakarpattia, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Poltava, Kharkiv, Chernivtsi, and Chernihiv regions.

Why is rabies more common in domestic animals than in wild animals? Are there other sources of rabies besides wild animals

According to 2023 data, the most common cases of rabies are observed in cats - 421, dogs - 317, red foxes - 225, and cattle - 82.

Red foxes, which are the main reservoir and spreader of the rabies virus, are the most commonly affected in the wild. Sick foxes exhibit abnormal behavior, including loss of fear, as a result of which the sick animal enters the farmyard. In case of contact with a domestic animal, the latter becomes infected.

Wolves, raccoons, badgers, bears, squirrels, and other animals are also carriers of the disease.

Human infection with rabies occurs mainly through bites by a sick animal or as a result of its saliva on fresh wounds, scratches of the skin or mucous membranes. Only a timely anti-rabies care package can protect affected people from fatal consequences.

How to identify a rabid animal? What to do before and after an attack?

The signs of rabies are very diverse. The most characteristic are salivation, fear of water, aggressiveness, paralysis, but sometimes there may be no signs

In dogs and cats, rabies occurs in two forms: violent and quiet.

An animal with rabies becomes aggressive, hides in corners, often changes its place of residence, runs away from home, gnaws on inedible objects due to distorted appetite. The voice disappears.

The dog becomes irritable, refuses food and water, does not respond to the call, and disobeys the owner. Its tail and lower jaw hang down, saliva is abundant, and its gait becomes unsteady. The animal is able to silently, without barking, pounce on strangers and bite them.

The most dangerous form of rabies is the silent one. The main signs of the disease may be mild.

The simplest defense is to avoid contact with infected animals. Do not touch them and, if possible, avoid areas where they may live. For example, packs of wild dogs may defend their territory and attack first.

About 40% of victims of bites from suspected feral dogs are children under the age of 15. Explain to children the need to avoid contact with wild and stray animals.

If you suspect that your pet is sick, you should immediately contact the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection in your region.

What are the chances of survival for a pet after rabies infection?

If a pet is diagnosed with the disease, the chances of survival are zero. Because there is no cure for rabies in the world. In this case, the central nervous system is already damaged and the course of the disease is fatal.

Also, in case of detection of the disease, in accordance with the Instruction "On Measures to Combat Animal Rabies", upon the submission of the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection, the local SPSC declares a settlement or its parts to be unfavorable for this disease, imposes quarantine restrictions and develops an action plan for the elimination of rabies.

At the disadvantaged point, the State Service of Ukraine for Food Safety and Consumer Protection specialists examine animals, vaccinate them against rabies, and identify sick and suspected rabies animals.

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