Rabies Control in Finland: A 12-Year Experience of Human and Veterinary Surveillance


R. Rimhanen-Finne. Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, National Public Health Institute, Mannerheimintie 166, 00300 Helsinki, Finland. Tel.: +358 9 4744 8942; Fax: +358 9 4744 8942; E-mail: ruska.rimhanen-finne@ktl.fi


Little is known about the public health burden of rabies in rabies-free countries. In these countries, the surveillance of suspected and treated cases serves as a substitute for estimating the risk and burden of human rabies because deaths due to rabies are extremely rare. Suspected rabies exposures among Finnish inhabitants were characterized using data from the National Infectious Disease Registry as well as animal surveillance data from the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, 1995–2006. In total, 195 suspected rabies exposures were reported (incidence 3/million inhabitants/year). Exposures were equally common among both genders and the median age was 35 years. Exposures were more common among 20- to 49-year olds than among other age groups. Less than one-third of the exposures occurred in Finland (incidence of indigenous exposures 0.9/million inhabitants/year). Indigenous rabies exposures were most frequently reported in southeastern Finland, with cats and dogs as the main sources. The high prevalence in the Baltic countries and Russia poses a risk for rabies reintroduction. The present control of wildlife rabies appears successful and important. The import of animals from endemic areas, however, remains a risk, which can be reduced by increasing public awareness of the disease, vaccination of imported animals and better rabies control in endemic countries.