In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) first declared an international day dedicated to fighting rabies, entitled Make Rabies History.
Rabies has been a well-known, common, worldwide disease since the beginning of human history. It is an incurable disease caused by a virus. Once the early clinical symptoms begin to appear in humans or animals, it is impossible to save the patient and death is inevitable.
The rabies virus is lethal to all mammals and is transmitted by saliva, and particularly through biting. The disease can be prevented in animals by prior vaccination, and in humans by vaccination following exposure to the virus. Israel and its neighboring countries have been infected by rabies and therefore hundreds of people require treatment after being bitten by animals that are infected or suspected of being infected with rabies, or after physical contact with them.
During 2009, a total of 58 (!!) cases of animals with rabies were discovered, including 32 dogs.
In 2010 there were 53 cases of rabies, including in 23 dogs.
In 2011 there were 32 cases of rabies, including in 10 dogs.
In 2012 there were 24 cases of rabies, including in 12 dogs.
In 2013 there were 29 cases of rabies, including in 17 dogs.
In 2014 there were 6 cases of rabies, none in dogs. All of the infected animals were discovered in villages located along Israel's borders, after apparently crossing the border or being bitten by other animals that entered Israel from its neighboring countries.
In 2015 there were 27 cases of rabies in Israel, of which 26 were found in northern Israel and one in the Negev region. Twelve of the animals with rabies were dogs.
In 2016 there were 30 cases of rabies in Israel, of which 26 were found in northern Israel and four in the Negev region. Twelve of the animals with rabies were dogs.
Veterinary action taken in Israel against rabies
In order to protect the general and animal populations, the Ministry of Agriculture has taken several initiatives in order to prevent the disease from spreading in dogs.
Over the last years, hundreds of thousands of dogs have been vaccinated by veterinarians at the local authorities and by certified private veterinarians, which is the vast majority of all of the dogs registered in the National Dog Registration Database (In Hebrew).
Oral Vaccination Project, 2014-2016
This project was designed to vaccinate foxes and jackals against rabies by distributing bait containing the vaccine. The project began with a limited field trial in northern Israel in 1998, and was gradually expanded over the subsequent years, until it was expanded significantly following a government decision in 2003.
Following the rabies outbreak in the Modiin area in 2002-2003 and the difficulty encountered when attempting to stop the outbreak in the Sharon region in 2003, a decision was made to distribute this bait in Judea and Samaria as well. This formed a vaccine continuum throughout Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The project now covers approximately 20,000 sq. meters, including most of the settled areas in Israel and in the PA from northern Israel to Eilat in the south, and from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
Until 2005, the vaccinated bait was distributed twice annually – in the spring and fall. When the number of incidents in the infected areas dropped significantly and monitoring vaccination in the fox and jackal populations indicated positive results, a decision was made in 2006 to distribute the bait only once per year, each fall. Due to the rabies conditions in northern Israel and in order to prevent the disease from spreading to Israel's wildlife, vaccines were increased in the Golan Heights in 2014 as well. This time, vaccinated bait was placed on the ground while driving through the area, in addition to being dispersed from the air. Most of the bait was placed at the perimeters of the villages and in places in which air dispersion is less effective, with an emphasis on sites at which foxes and jackals were sighted. Monitoring continued in order to assess the percentage of animals that ate the vaccine by testing for tetracyclines in the bone (which was added to the bait as an indicator) and antibodies in the blood. The vaccine was last dispersed between March and April 2016 in the Golan Heights, Galilee, Jordan Valley, Judea and Samaria, and the Arava region, along the entire border all the way to Eilat. Vaccines were also placed 7-10 km into Jordan in the valley area and along the border in the Arava area.
All of these actions are funded by the Israeli government and are valued at hundreds of thousands of NIS..