- Gesponsord bericht
Outbreak Threatens Border
By Bojan Pancevski in Munich
The Telegraph - UK
Germany has been accused of negligence and incompetence by France for
failing to tackle an outbreak of rabies that is threatening to spread across
The outbreak, which began in the state of Hessen, has reached almost
epidemic proportions with dozens of rabid foxes - the main carriers of the
disease - reported in recent months.
To the fury of the French, who have spent millions of euros on an
eradication programme, German health officials announced last week that the
first cases could turn up in France this month.
The news has alarmed France's tourism chiefs as they gear up for the summer
influx of visitors. About 75 million tourists visited the country last year,
nearly 15 million of them Britons.
In humans, rabies affects the central nervous system. It is typically spread
through a bite from an infected animal. From initial flu-like signs and
symptoms, the illness progresses to convulsions, hallucinations, paralysis
or breathing failure. Once established, it is almost always fatal.
French officials have laid 80,000 fishmeal briquettes baited with a rabies
vaccine along the German border.
In Germany's worst-affected state, Rheinland-Pfalz, which borders Belgium,
France and Luxembourg, 25 rabid foxes have been killed this year.
With the exception of Poland, all Germany's neighbours have invested heavily
in vaccination programmes. They are now concerned that rabid animals will
cross their borders and re-introduce the lethal disease.
Germany first admitted that it had lost control of rabies at the start of
the year, two months after the first reported case in Hessen in November.
Birgit Straubinger, a disease prevention officer for the local ministry of
environmental affairs and forestry, said: "We wrongly considered the Rhine
to be a natural border that wouldn't be crossed by the foxes. This was a
Dr Florence Cliquet, head of the French rabies laboratory at the Agence
Française de Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments, said that it was only one of a
series of mistakes. She said that unlike France, the Benelux countries and
Switzerland, all of which are rabies-free, the Germans were using a vaccine
which was not approved by the World Health Organisation, and was so
temperature-sensitive that it easily became ineffective.
"It has also been known to cause vaccine rabies cases, in which the animals
actually get the virus from the vaccine," she said.
"Secondly, they drop the vaccine-baits from aircraft or use hunters to
distribute them by hand, which has proven very inefficient in other
"We use helicopters that are much more precise and allow for bait to be
spread even in suburban areas, which is essential. As for the hunters, we
stopped relying on them as long ago as 1986. They were more likely to be
enjoying a beer in the pub than carefully laying vaccine baits over a
designated area," she said.
Despite French concerns, the Germans are persisting with their approach.
Only last week, they dropped a further 100,000 vaccine baits from the air
and distributed 30,000 more by hand in Hessen alone. Yet Ms Straubinger
admitted that the French were right to be worried. "Their caution is fully
justified but we are doing our best to fight the disease spreading," she
"A large-scale vaccination programme is being carried out every six weeks.
We are trying to make sure as many foxes as possible in the affected areas
are shot. Rabies has a long incubation period, meaning that infected animals
carry the virus long before it breaks out."
Critics accuse Germany of being too slow to co-ordinate its anti-rabies
efforts. Its strategy is now being supervised by Dr Thomas Mueller, head of
a WHO laboratory at the German Research Institute for Animal Health in
Wusterhausen. He had admitted that German officials "simply forgot" to
distribute vaccine by hand in Hessen.
He also conceded that only after EU inspectors went to Hessen was it
discovered that the expensive vaccine was not being stored properly,
rendering it useless.
While Mr Mueller is optimistic that the disease can be contained, Dr Cliquet
believes France needs to brace itself for infection: "I really don't believe
they will be able to either eradicate or fully contain the disease this
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.
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