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Keywords:

  • Echinococcus multilocularis;
  • foxes;
  • prevalence;
  • Brussels;
  • Flanders;
  • Belgium

Summary

Echinococcus multilocularis is highly endemic in red foxes in southern Belgium (region of Wallonia), especially in the higher located forested areas. The north of Belgium, including the regions of Flanders and Brussels, is more urbanized and has been colonized entirely by red foxes since the 1980s. A temperospatial analysis of compiled epidemiological data from 1996 to 2003 predicted a northwest spread of the cestode from Wallonia and the Netherlands towards Flanders and Brussels (Prev. Vet. Med. 2006, 76, 137–150). In 2007–2008, none of 187 examined foxes from the north tested positive (<2.8%, α = 0.01), compared to 1.7% in 1996–1999. This suggests that the parasite is not emerging in the examined area and the endemic region has not significantly extended northwest during the last decade. The possible reasons are discussed in the article, including the relatively low altitude, milder climate or low abundance of suitable intermediate hosts. The low prevalence in foxes and the generally low infection rate in humans imply that the risk for public health in Flanders and Brussels is limited anno 2007–2008.