Last week, we had a really interesting talk from Laurie Baker about her current PhD project on fox rabies as well as all her previous research projects including her Master’s and Undergrad degree.
Rabies is a viral disease which affects all mammals and is spread through the saliva of infected animals. When an animal becomes infected with rabies, there are no symptoms for around 3 weeks, as the virus migrates to the brain. Then, there is a rapid increase of the virus in the saliva and after 4 days the disease will lead to death. The rabies epidemic originated in the 1940s in Poland, where a cross-over from dogs to foxes occured, and from there the disease became rapidly widespread throughout Europe.
The main method for eradicating rabies in foxes is through oral vaccines, which are distributed via aeroplane and dropped into known fox territories. The vaccines are in the form of tablets – similar to dog biscuits – which attract the foxes who then eat them, and are subsequently protected from infection. This method is slightly more difficult in urban areas as the vaccines have to be distributed by hand but, nevertheless, eradication has been extremely successful and the majority of West and Central Europe is now rabies-free! Continue reading