No need for panic over rabies threat

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12/21/2009
Vets are warning against widespread concern and panic after press reports that there will be a significant threat of rabies to the UK when rules for pet travel are harmonised across Europe. In a letter to the Veterinary Record Dr Paul Burr and his colleagues at the Biobest Laboratories, which carries out serology tests for rabies, warn against any relaxation of the current rules for animals entering the UK under the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS).

Professor Bill Reilly, President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA), said:

“It is very important that the British public is not unnecessarily concerned or alarmed by the statement from Dr Burr on rabies".

“Last week the European Parliament voted for an extension to the existing arrangements which allow the UK to apply stricter controls on animals entering the country until the end of 2011. We hope that the Agriculture Council will soon finalise this decision".

“This allows us additional time to fully assess the risk that harmonisation of the rules on rabies poses."

“However, we do know that the incidence of rabies has been reducing significantly in mainland Europe over the last 20 years due to a very successful vaccination programme. Therefore the threat posed to the UK by animals coming into the country from other Member States should certainly not cause any panic."

Andrew Ash, Junior Vice President of the British Small Animal Association (BSAVA), added:

 “We are satisfied that the measures in place will be sufficient to protect both animal and human health and this extra window of time should allow us to collect the necessary scientific evidence on the impact of harmonisation."

“It is regrettable that this concern has been raised ahead of other issues such as the risk posed by tapeworms (the parasite Echinococcus multilocularis) which the BVA and BSAVA believe could have a far more serious impact on animal and human health.”

The letter from Dr Paul Burr in the Veterinary Record is available here: http://press.psprings.co.uk/mp/march/passports.pdf

For more information on PETS, including the views of the BVA and BSAVA, please visit the BVA website: http://www.bva.co.uk/activity_and_advice/1450.aspx

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