Rabies cases spark emergency action

 作者:舒芘许     |      日期:2019-03-02 14:14:01
By Debora MacKenzie Rabies is once again threatening western Europe. This week emergency teams are fanning out across four German states and neighbouring parts of France, trying to vaccinate enough foxes to stop the disease spreading, as national and regional authorities trade accusations. The reason for the flare-up appears to be patchy vaccination of wild foxes in the German state of Hesse. Officials at Germany’s national rabies laboratory in Wusterhausen say they will stamp out this nest of infection this year, by vaccinating foxes every six weeks if they have to. But their counterparts in France, Switzerland and Belgium are expressing “serious concern” that unless recommendations about fox vaccination made by a panel of European Union scientists in 2002 are strictly applied, large areas of Europe where rabies had been eradicated could be reinfected. Rabies eradication was one of Europe’s success stories. Switzerland became rabies-free in 1998, thanks to a huge campaign in which biscuits doped with vaccine were distributed in fox habitats. France was next to eliminate the disease, in 2000, followed by Belgium and Luxembourg in 2001. In 2000, this helped convince the rabies-free UK to end compulsory quarantine for mammals brought in from some European countries. But in Germany, stubborn nests of infection persisted. Part of the problem was ensuring even vaccination in urban areas, where placing baits can be difficult, says Thomas Müller, head of the Wusterhausen lab. “Another big problem was human error.” States managed their vaccination campaigns themselves, with varying effectiveness. Müller’s team is trying to get better cooperation. Several former problem states, including Bavaria, have not found any cases for several years. But there has been no let-up in Hesse, which found 24 rabid foxes last year. In December, one turned up in Baden-Württemberg, which had been rabies-free since 1996 and stopped vaccinating in 2002. And in January, Rhineland-Palatinate, rabies-free since 1998, found rabid foxes near the Hesse border. Late in 2004 all three states plus Bavaria carried out emergency vaccination in threatened areas, and this week they are air-dropping vaccine-laced bait across thousands of square kilometres. France stopped vaccinating in 2003, but Florence Cliquet, head of the French national rabies lab in Nancy, says her team will bait fox dens along the German border this week, and will vaccinate a 60-kilometre-wide border strip in May 2005. Europe’s fox population has grown as much as eightfold in the past decade, and this has raised fears that rabies could easily get out of control. “The virus could really spread fast if it got loose now,” says Reto Zanoni of the Swiss Rabies Centre in Berne. Michel Aubert, former head of the French lab, blames the persistence of rabies in Germany on the ineffectiveness of the German vaccine, and points to figures suggesting that it takes twice as many German as French baits to clear an area of rabies. He also claims the virus in German vaccine sometimes reverts to the disease-causing form. This is known to have happened once in Austria, but Müller says there have been only three suspected cases in Germany in the past five years. He insists the main problem is the way the vaccination campaigns have been run. The EU must hope he is right. New member states such as Poland still have rabies problems,