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Illegal import is rabies suspect

A RABIES outbreak looks likely in Sweden with at least one person suspected of being infected with the disease after having been bitten by a puppy allegedly smuggled in to Malmo, Sweden from Tunisia.

At this time, the puppy is being kept under observation at the National Veterinary Institute in Uppsala, where it is being put through a so-called ‘ten day test’, as this is how long it takes for the virus to develop into rabies.

"Rabies is a 100 % fatal disease. If you have developed it, there is no way back. The death is terrible. The central nervous system stops functioning and the affected person will be hit by violent and prolonged fits," says Julia Österberg, a vet based at the Communicable Diseases Unit.

An infected animal does not need to show any symptoms of the disease. The virus can exist in the saliva for ten days before the disease develops.

Animals which have not been vaccinated and wormed according to the Swedish importation laws – upon which the UK’s Pets Passport laws are based - are extremely dangerous, according to the vet.

"The latest victim was a young Swedish girl who had cuddled a puppy in Thailand a few years ago," says Österberg.

It was a week ago that the Malmö couple returned via the Öresund bridge to Sweden with a small mongrel puppy which they had bought from a market in Tunisia 7 or 8 weeks earlier.

"When they arrived home the puppy snapped or bit two people. One of them developed swellings and a fever." says Ursula Månsson, information officer with the customs service.

"That person is now in hospital under close observation."