Vaccination of wild animals against rabies is launched in Lithuania

Today, on 21 April, the State Food and Veterinary Service (SFVS) is starting the spring vaccination of wild animals against rabies. 505 thousand baits are going to be distributed from aircrafts in the 50-kilometre buffer zone on the border with the Republic of Belarus and Poland. The vaccination is going to be completed by the end on May.

With the announcement of quarantine in Lithuania, the work, which was planned for the end of March, had to be postponed for nearly a month. In the words of Adviser to the Animal Health and Welfare Division of the SFVS Kristina Stakytė, the vaccination of wild animals has been carried out in Lithuania systematically for over a decade, therefore, there are practically no more cases of rabies recorded in Lithuania. However, in the neighbouring countries, e. g. in Belarus, rabies is prevalent both among domestic and wild animals, therefore, there is always a risk of infected wild animals coming occasionally to Lithuania.

Although the baits to be distributed comply with all the safety standards and do not pose any threat neither to human nor animal health, nevertheless, specialists warn the population not to touch or collect baits if they find them.

There is a sharp membrane inside baits, which could cause an injury. In this case, the recommendation is to wash hands and, if necessary, disinfect the wound. A contact like this cannot bear any risk for the person to get infected with rabies as the vaccine is absolutely safe and tested.

If a pet animal found the bait and ate it the recommendation is to observe its health condition for a few days and consult a veterinarian. Those baits are not hazardous to pet animals.

According to specialists, the vaccination of pets and wild animals is the only effective way of fighting rabies. To safeguard themselves, people also have to avoid direct contacts with stray or wild animals. All owners of dogs, cats or ferrets must vaccinate their pets against rabies at least once per 12 months or, in case of a long-acting vaccine, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instruction. The veterinarian who performed the vaccination has to record the date and the duration period for the vaccine into the vaccination certificate or pet pasport.

Last year, 314 samples were tested in Lithuania in case of a suspicion of rabies. Most of them were taken from wild animals (81 foxes and 64 racoons accordingly). Furthermore, 20 dogs and 20 cats were tested. All the testing results were negative. The latest case of rabies was detected for a dead fox on the border with Belarus in 2018.

According to information published by the World Organisation for Animal Health, over 55 thousand cases of human deaths from rabies are recorded worldwide each year – mostly in the continents of Asia and Africa. The latest case of death in Lithuania was recorded in 2007 where a man of 42 was bitten by a dog while travelling in Italy.