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Rabies has a worldwide distribution and continues to remain a considerably significant cause of death in many developing and third world countries. Rabies carries a noteworthy economic burden on endemic countries due to the high cost of pre- and postexposure treatment and the control measures being implemented. Despite the elimination of rabies virus (RABV) circulation and spillover to other species, including domestic animals and human beings, in Western European countries, costly control efforts are also required in other European countries in order to eliminate the disease (WHO 2013). Wildlife rabies still occurs in the Balkans posing a threat to neighbouring rabies-free countries, as in the case of Greece, where after 25 years of rabies-free status, a red fox was found positive in 2012 (Tasioudi and others 2014, Tsiodras and others 2014).
The reappearance of rabies in Greece led to the intensification of the pre-existing passive surveillance programme, which is based on the collection and laboratory testing of brain samples derived from all susceptible to RABV animals found dead or presenting abnormal behaviour or clinical signs consistent with rabies (Tasioudi and others 2014). Furthermore, oral rabies vaccination (ORV) campaigns are being carried out since autumn 2013 followed by active surveillance programme.
Until October 2015, in the framework of the passive surveillance of the disease, a total of 48 rabid animals have been confirmed by the National Reference Laboratory for Rabies in animals (NRL), which is the Virology Laboratory in Athens Veterinary Center. In detail, 9 (7 foxes, 2 dogs), 29 (25 foxes, 1 dog, 1 cat, 2 cows) and 10 (8 foxes, 2 dogs) rabies cases were laboratory confirmed in 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively, whereas no rabies case was diagnosed from May 2014 until October 2015.
Livestock and especially cattle play a minor role …