2.3.6 Why is testing of healthy animals of no value?

The presence of rabies virus can only be confirmed in the late stage of the disease when the animal displays clinical signs or through post mortem examination. There has been no field or experimental evidence of a “carrier state” (sub-clinical infection) in terrestrial animals (read more here).

Experience has shown that, if healthy appearing and normally behaving animals or hunted, wild animals are routinely tested, the odds of detecting rabies are extremely low with a ratio of effort per case multiple times higher (up to ten times and even higher for foxes in Europe and raccoons in the US, respectively) compared to indicator animals (read more here). Even if rabies was detected in healthy appearing animals or hunted wild animals there would be reason to assume that people did not recognize clinical signs in those animals at the time point of euthanasia or harvest, respectively. Furthermore, “rare additional rabies cases” are typically found in areas where the rabies prevalence is known to be high and rabies has been previously confirmed in indicator animals. Therefore, testing healthy animals alone does not generally provide additional valuable information and could rather bias the surveillance outcome considerably.

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[en]Version 1 Last updated December 2014[fr]Première version, dernière mise à jour Juin 2015