Elimination of terrestrial rabies in Germany using oral vaccination of foxes
Oral rabies vaccination (ORV) has become the method of choice in fox rabies control in Europe. During the past three decades fox-mediated rabies virtually disappeared from Western and Central Europe. Following Switzerland, Germany was the second European country to launch ORV field trials on its territory in 1983. This paper provides a historical overview on the emergence of fox rabies in Germany; describing the basic principles and milestones of the German rabies eradication programme and presenting results of two decades of efforts to control the disease in foxes. Also, setbacks as well as country-specific differences and particularities on Germany's long way to rabies elimination in comparison to other European countries are addressed. Since the first field trials in Germany the number of rabies cases steadily decreased from 10 484 in 1983 to three cases recorded in 2006. On February 3rd 2006 the last case of terrestrial rabies in Germany was detected in a fox near the town of Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate. In 2008, ORV ceased after 25 years and Germany was officially declared as free from terrestrial rabies. The German rabies eradication programme did cost approximately 100 million euro of which 37 million euro were covered by the EU. For the future, efforts should focus on maintaining a rabies free status by implementing measures to prevent reintroduction of terrestrial rabies from endemic countries.