MEEREB members call for a regional initiative for rabies elimination
The informal Middle East and Eastern Europe Rabies Expert Bureau (MEEREB) met in Paris on June 5-8, 2012. Representatives from Croatia, Georgia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Romania,Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine combined their expertise with scientists from the Pasteur Institute and GARC to discuss the rabies situation in their respective countries and identify strategies for regional control.
Some MEEREB countries, such as Croatia and Serbia, have not recorded human deaths from rabies for more than 30 years. However, the persistence of rabies in wildlife (foxes) requires constant surveillance and public health interventions in order to prevent human rabies cases. Oral vaccination campaigns for foxes that are being conducted in Croatia and Serbia with the support of the European Union could lead to fox rabies elimination in these countries in the near future, but reintroduction from neighbouring countries remains a threat. In the other MEEREB countries, rabies is present not only in wildlife but also in dogs, which increases the risk of transmission to humans. In fact, human cases still occur in these countries.
Success stories in Latin America, Western Europe, in some Asian countries, as well as in Croatia and Serbia prove that elimination of human rabies is achievable in the MEEREB region. It requires political willingness and cooperation of all stakeholders, including Ministries of Health and of Agriculture; adequate management of animal bites through PEP; pre-exposure prophylaxis for populations at high risk of rabies exposure, animal vaccination and humane control of stray dog populations.
MEEREB members call for a regional initiative for rabies elimination in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. They are confident that the elimination of human rabies of canine origin can be achieved in the region through a One Health approach, and that campaigns for rabies elimination will have significant benefits for public health, including strengthening the structure for control of other zoonoses.
Adapted from a press release from MEEREB following the Paris meeting. Information on MEEREB is available at www.meereb.info.