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Echinococcus multilocularis is one of the most pathogenic parasites present in Central Europe causing alveolar echinococcosis in humans and various kinds of intermediate hosts. Over the last 20 years, its distribution in continental Europe has been increasing, and several countries have recently reported E multilocularis in foxes for the first time (Davidson and others 2012). At present, Great Britain (GB) is recognised as free of this parasite following regular surveillance of the red fox population (eg, fox surveys by Smith and others (2003)). However, last year, Barlow and others (2011) published the first isolation of E multilocularis in GB in an imported captive European beaver (Caster fiber).
The risk of introduction of E multilocularis via importation of beavers has been assessed following the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) risk assessment framework and definitions of qualitative risks as part of an evidence-based approach to policy advice (Defra 2012; Table 1). The pathway illustrating how E multilocularis may be introduced and established in definitive hosts in GB is shown in Figure 1.
European beavers may be imported into GB in accordance with the Balai Directive (Council Directive 92/65/EEC), the Rabies (Importation of Dogs, Cats …