A dog illegally imported from Morocco and carrying rabies died 13 days after its arrival in Europe, in the Var. The Regional Health Agency contacted all people in contact with the animal. A quick reminder of the risks of rabies when introducing pets from infected countries and when traveling.
A dog illegally imported from Morocco
A case of rabies in a puppy in Var (83) was confirmed on January 5, 2024 by the National Rabies Reference Laboratory in Nancy. The animal, illegally imported from Morocco, died thirteen days after its introduction into the territory.
All people exposed to the animal were contacted by the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Health Agency and taken care of by an anti-rabies center.
Around twenty cases of rabies imported since 1970
Europe has been officially recognized as rabies-free (excluding bats) since 2001 and the last indigenous case in humans dates back to 1924. Since 1970, 23 cases of rabies have been observed, all having contracted the disease abroad , following the bite of a sick animal. Rabies is rampant in many countries in Africa, Asia, but also Eastern Europe, the Middle East, etc.
Preventive rabies vaccination is recommended for travelers with extended or adventurous stays. In all cases, travelers are reminded not to come into contact with unknown animals, domestic or wild. In the event of scratches, bites, licking on a wound, etc., the wound should be washed carefully and a doctor from an anti-rabies center should be consulted quickly to assess the need for prophylactic vaccination.
Rabies, a deadly disease
Although it is not transmissible between humans, rabies remains a serious pathology, which leads to death if symptoms appear. It is transmitted by a scratch, a bite or a lick on damaged skin or the mucous membrane of a contaminated animal, but is not transmitted by skin contact, such as simple caresses of the animal.
It causes nearly 60,000 deaths per year worldwide. Rabies is a brain infection with variable symptoms: change in behavior (aggression, agitation), impaired consciousness which can lead to coma, motor problems (numbness of a limb, paralysis), difficulty speaking, etc.
Preventive treatment (vaccine) is 100% effective and prevents the onset of the disease as long as it is administered before symptoms appear.
What are the rules to follow after a bite?
When you are bitten by a dog, a consultation must be carried out the same day. When a person is bitten, the doctor treats the wound and decides on a specific treatment, case by case and based on the results of health monitoring of the biting animal. Post-exposure prophylaxis treatment is therefore not given systematically.
The biting animal, on the other hand, is subject to visits on D0, D+7 and D+14. These visits monitor health status and possible signs of rabies. At the end of these three visits, if the animal is still alive, it is declared free of rabies.
If during this period the animal dies, it will be sent to the Pasteur Institute for analysis. This shows the importance of working hand in hand between doctors and veterinarians for diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans.
Do not bring dogs or cats from abroad
It is prohibited to bring dogs and cats back into French territory except under the following health conditions. The animal:
- is identified;
- has a vaccination record and a health certificate established by the country’s health authorities;
- has a valid rabies vaccination(1);
- and, for certain third countries at risk of rabies, has had a blood test to verify their protection against rabies at least 3 months before their arrival in the European Union; this protection must be attested in a health certificate accompanying the animal, established by an official veterinarian of the country of origin (most often state veterinarian).
Failure to comply with these regulatory requirements is subject to fines.
If you travel with your pet
This is why there are instructions to follow before traveling with your pet:
- You should contact your veterinarian well in advance of departure (1 to 4 months depending on the destination);
- Your animal must be identified and accompanied by its up-to-date passport;
- Your pet’s vaccinations must be up to date, particularly against rabies;
- A blood test for serum titration of anti-rabies antibodies is necessary before traveling to certain countries at risk of rabies.
Failure to comply with these instructions is subject to criminal sanctions.
Be vigilant on site
Worldwide, rabies kills one person every ten minutes. The campaign thus reminds us of the importance of being extremely vigilant in the event of a bite, in countries where rabies is widely present.
During a stay abroad in a country at risk:
- Do not touch any stray animals;
- Do not bring back any animal that does not meet health requirements (to be found at the French embassy, departmental veterinary services, or the Ministry of Agriculture);
- If you are bitten, scratched or licked on a wound, contact a doctor or local health authorities;
- If you left with your animal, present it to the control authorities on your return.
The rest after this ad
If you wish to bring a pet from abroad, it is necessary to “find out about the health conditions for introducing or importing pets into Europe from the French authorities (French embassy, departmental veterinary services, Ministry of Agriculture)”.