1.8 Did rabies occur in history and how did it emerge?

There are a few historical accounts of the occurrence of fox rabies in Britain and continental Europe, but rabies in wildlife was hardly noticed before 1900. The situation changed towards the middle of the 20th century when a fox rabies [1] began spreading from Russia and Poland towards the west, and almost simultaneously in the Americas, fox rabies spread from the North American Arctic to the south. Within a few decades large territories were affected. For characteristics of a fox rabies epizootic, click here.

Where rabies-related fox mortality (alone or in combination with fox control) brought fox population density below a certain level, rabies cases were no longer documented. This was the case not only for foxes, but also for other species (except bats). In addition, the progress of epizootic waves was halted in areas where a proportion of the fox population was immunised through oral rabies vaccination. However, the progression also stopped in Northern Italy, in central France, and in some areas of North America without any significant disease control interventions.



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Version 1 - Last updated November 2012