On September 28 the world celebrates the World Rabies Day. On average, every ten minutes one person in the world dies of rabies. According to the State Snitary Service of Ukraine, more than 55 thousand citizens of the planet and more than million animals die of rabies annually. The World Health Organization (WHO) has put rabies on the list of top-5 diseases, common for humans and animals, which bring the biggest social losses.

Healthcare Ministry of Ukraine told ForUm that in our country the rabies cases are, fortunately, rare: from 1980 to 2011, there were only 91 cases registered. This is about 1-3 cases annually, but they all were lethal. Responsible for the virus are wild and domestic animals.

Where this is coming from

Mass spread of rabies among animals in Ukraine started in 1996, and till 2008 the problem was accelerating. The infection rate increased by ten times, and the virus first covered rural area and then came close to the cities.

State Sanitary Service explains that there are two types of rabies - natural focal and anthropurgic (city) types. In rural areas the main carriers of the virus are wild animals - in Ukraine these are mainly foxes. Within cities the carriers are stray dogs and cats, which may infect domestic pets, and consequently pet owners.

The cause of disease outbreak is not regular preventive care among animals, and the huge number of stray animals only aggravates the situation. According to the specialists of the State Sanitary Service, poor control over the rules of maintenance of cats and dogs by communal services and Interior Ministry departments, multiplied by carelessness of pet owners, speeds up the spread of rabies in cities and suburbs.

At the same time, pet owners can easily avoid the risks of infection. Free of charge vaccinations are carried out in every state vet clinic.

It's also worth mentioning that 100-120 thousand people suffer animal bites every year. And these are only those who applied for help in medical institutions.

Short of funds

Europe has chosen a different way and decided to disinfect wild animals. Ukraine, unfortunately, does not have enough funds to follow the experience. 42 million hryvnias, allocated to the State Veterinary and Sanitary Service for rabies preventive measures, are enough only for free vaccination of pets and domestic farm animals. Only a small part of the financing goes for immunization of wild animals. 

Only five regions of Ukraine try to fight rabies among wild animals - Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Sumy and Poltava regions. "Rabies is a real problem for the state. When Western Europe had serious situation, the authorities approved peroral immunization (vaccinated baits spread in areas of wild animals habitat twice a year - ed.), and as a result, the wild animals recovered, and now only single cases are registered on its territories. This method proved to be the most effective in fight against rabies spread," head of the Sanitary Service Volodymyr Gorzheyev says.

The mass immunization program was once large-scaled in Ukraine. In 2006 it was held in 16 regions of Ukraine, on the territory of 286 thousand sq m. The program was developed for the period of 2008-2015, but due to economic 'shakings', it was suspended in 2009.

Meanwhile, the number of rabies cases grows. The most disadvantageous regions are Vinnitsa, Ternopil, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovograd, according to vets. The figures in the capital do not make happy as well.

The government has finally started paying attention to the problem. According to Gorzheyev, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov ordered to provide a separate paragraph in the state budget - 2013 for immunization of wild animals.

While high officials decide on allocation of money, the head of the Sanitary Service notes that the immunization procedure is effective not only from the health point of view, but from the economic one as well. "Scientists have calculated that systemic immunization among wild animals will cost the state 20-100 times cheaper, as payments for medicines, covering of sick bills and, finally, death rate are more 'painful' and expensive procedures," Gorzheyev summed up.

According to him, the state must take drastic measures. "Let's be professionals and realists: spread of rabies will not stop by itself. We must take vaccines and vaccinate wild animals. If we carried out immunization not in five, but in all regions of Ukraine, the situation would improve significantly," he declared.

Not budget alone...

However, there is no point in giving up due to lack of money. This year western regions of Ukraine bordering with the EU have a possibility to come closer to the European standards. After long negotiations the EU has agreed to create on the territory of Ukraine a buffer zone and European Commission Directorate General for Health & Consumers (SANCO) and has allocated 13 million hryvnias for its needs. The buffer zone will cover 70 square kilometers of four Ukrainian regions: Volyn, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Zakarpattya regions. The immunization campaign will be held this autumn.

"There is a special Agreement, signed in June of this year by Agricultural Ministries of Ukraine and Poland. We hope the EU will prolong it for another 6-10 years. Now we are finishing the tender on vaccines and vaccination services. The campaign will be held somewhere in the end of October," Gorzheyev informed.

The Sanitary Service does not give up hope that SANCO will keep allocating money for immunization campaigns, including spring one.

If you want to be healthy, get vaccinated

While the European Union is concerned over immunization of wild animals in Ukraine, ForUm has decided to ask what pet owners should do to save themselves from the deadly virus. According to Ludmyla Chernenko, deputy chairman of the State Sanitary and Epidemiologic Service of Ukraine, the only preventive measure against rabies is vaccination.

According to the data of Healthcare Ministry of Ukraine, 20-22 thousand Ukrainians get vaccinated annually. However, our fellow citizens must be careful, there are only three registered and approved vaccines against rabies in Ukraine - French "Verorab", Russian "KoKaB" and Indian "Indirab". Ukrainian pharmaceutical market offers only immunoglobulin, produced in Kharkiv.

"According to the legislation, the vaccines against rabies are purchased at the expense of the state budget. For now the vaccines have been distributed in all regions of Ukraine in sufficient amount," the specialist assures.


For the last 12 years the sources of virus agent are cats in 40.8% of cases, dogs in 34.4% of cases, foxes in 17.1% of cases, a bat in one case and unknown carriers in three cases.

In 2011 there were six cases of rabies among people registered in Ukraine - in Sumy, Chernihiv, Donetsk, Ternopil and Kyiv regions. In 2010 there were only there rabies cases, registered in Kharkiv, Ternopil and Donetsk regions.

Tetyana Matsur


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