Author(s): Zanoni RG, Kappeler A, Mller UM
The European fox rabies epizootic starting in 1939 at the eastern border of Poland reached Switzerland on March 3, 1967. Rabies spread over large parts of the country until 1977, the year it caused three human deaths. In 1978 the first field trial world-wide for the oral immunization of foxes against rabies was conducted in Switzerland. Initially, the expansion of the vaccination area led to a rapid reduction in rabies cases. However, the 1990s were characterized by a recrudescence of rabies in spite of regular oral immunization of foxes. The last endemic case of rabies was diagnosed in 1996 after an adaptation of the vaccination strategy. A total of 17,109 rabies cases, of which 73% in foxes and 14% in domestic animals were diagnosed, leading to an estimated number of some 25,000 postexposure treatments in humans. To eliminate rabies, a total of 2.8 million baits containing a modified live virus were distributed--mostly by hand--in the field.