Rabies can affect humans and animals - the (very low) risk of infection in Europe mainly arises from foxes and bats when in direct contact. Germany today enjoys the status of "rabies-free" - but the danger is not completely eliminated, since infected animals from abroad could theoretically cross the border.
How animals are infected with rabies
The rabies virus is transmitted via the saliva of sick animals. Foxes, bats, but also badgers and martens are among the wild animals that dogs and free-range cats can encounter not only in rural regions. If they are injured in the fight via bite or scratch and saliva gets into the wound, the disease takes its course.
The pathogens spread through the nerve pathways and, over time, cause more and more damage to nerve cells, the spinal cord and the brain, which after a while cause the bad and deadly rabies symptoms. The incubation period depends on where the bite wound is located and averages a few weeks.
Rabies cases in Germany: last time in 2006
In Germany, rabies cases have been eliminated thanks to vaccine bait that has been laid out for a while. The last rabies case in Germany was documented in 2006 in a fox near Mainz. Infection is very unlikely in this country, but should still be completely ruled out with a vaccination.
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Rabies in other European countries
Unfortunately, the risk of infection is greater in many other countries - in some European countries, for example, rabies cases have been caused by illegally imported dogs and cats in recent years. Therefore, before you go on holiday with your pet, make sure you inquire about the risk of rabies there and refresh your pet's vaccination protection regularly at the veterinarian. In addition to Germany, the countries "France, Italy, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Finland, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries (so the Robert Koch Institute, status: 30.07.2013). In countries like Poland, Hungary, Estonia and Slovakia there have been sporadic isolated cases of rabies in recent years.