Accidental rabies imports emphasize value of quarantine
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2008:
LONDON, BRUSSELS–Health experts are hoping the prominence
of the most recent rescuer involved in accidentally importing a rabid
dog will emphasize to the international rescue community the need to
quarantine as well as vaccinate.
SOS Sri Lanka founder Kim Cooling and two workers at the
Chingford Quarantine Kennels in northeast London were repeatedly
bitten by an eight-week-old puppy between April 23 and April 25,
2008. The puppy died later on April 25. Rabies was diagnosed a few
“She just snapped at me and was snapping at the other pups.
She was not her usual sweet self. She bit me in three places, on my
wrist, hand and chin,” Cooling told Mark Townsend and Caroline
Davies of The Observer. Cooling, a social worker and former nurse,
was hospitalized for observation. “I am shattered at the moment,
but I am feeling okay,” she said. “I had already been vaccinated,
and have had boosters.”
The rabid puppy was one of 13 whom Cooling brought from Sri
Lanka on April 17. Four others were killed and decapitated for
rabies testing after the first pup died.
“She had been vaccinated in Sri Lanka, but the infection
must already have been in her,” Cooling said of the puppy who bit
her. “The other four dogs showed no signs of illness to me. I
thought that they could have been monitored,” Cooling added.
Involved in animal rescue in Sri Lanka and Thailand since
1998, Cooling “has found U.K. homes for 40 dogs from Sri Lanka in
recent years,” Townsend and Davies wrote.
“Twenty cases of rabies have been reported in England and
Wales since 1946, which were all imported,” noted BBC News.
Britain requires a six-month quarantine of dogs imported from
nations with active rabies reservoirs. Because the Cooling case
occurred in a quarantine center, the rabid puppy had restricted
opportunity to infect others. But if the puppy had been quarantined
for two weeks before being flown to Britain, the entire incident
would not have occurred–at least not in Britain, Department of
Environ-ment, Food & Rural Affairs staff noted.
Two recent Belgian cases were not so well contained. Belgium
had not had a canine rabies case since 1999, and has been officially
free of canine rabies since 2001, but that status was jeopardized
after a family in the Brussels suburb of Beersel in July 2007
smuggled a four-week-old puppy home from a holiday in Morocco. The
puppy was euthanized in October 2007 after exhibiting rabies
symptoms. When she proved to be rabid, a second dog in the
household was also killed. The family received post-exposure
In March 2008, a Belgian woman who was on holiday in the
Republic of the Gambia rescued and smuggled home a six-month-old
puppy whom she found injured in a street. The puppy passed through
Dakar and spent time in France as well as Belgium, but apparently
did not bite anyone before showing rabies symptoms on April 16. She
died at a veterinary clinic on April 21, and was found to be rabid
on April 24.
“The delay between the vaccination of this dog and its entry
into Belgium and then France did not conform to the delay of one
month required by these countries,” noted Eurosurveillance.org,
published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
in Stockholm, Sweden. “The criterion of having had a rabies antibody
titre three months before entry into these countries was also not met
for this particular dog.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention was already
worried about accidental importation of rabies into the U.S.,
reported Susan Donaldson James of ABC News Internet Ventures in
In early 2007, James recounted, “a puppy from India got a
clean bill of health from officials at the Seattle-Tacoma
International Airport. Days later, at its destination in Alaska,
the dog was diagnosed with rabies, according to Washington’s
Veterinary Board of Governors. In 2004, Los Angeles saw its first
case of rabies in 30 years, in a puppy imported from Mexico. In
Massachusetts, a dog imported from Puerto Rico was diagnosed with
Rescuers in the developing world are typically eager to move
puppies out of crowded shelters where delay increases the likelihood
of exposure to contagious ailments. Lacking quarantine facilities,
they often rely on vaccination and luck–but the shelters receiving
animals from abroad often lack adequate quarantine space themselves.
Rabies is only one of many diseases that are easily
accidentally imported before symptoms are evident–as Adirondack Save
A Stray, of Corinth, New York, recently found after accepting two
puppies from Puerto Rico.
“Both came down with serious cases of potentially deadly
parvovirus,” wrote Schenectady Gazette reporter Stephen Williams.
“Veterinarians said a quarantine after their arrival might have
prevented their getting sick after adoption.”
Responded Fiel, “In rescue, there are no guarantees. We’re
rescuing animals. We’re saving lives.”
Saratoga Springs veterinarian Charles Brockett, a regional
representative of the New York State Veterinary Medical Association,
told Williams that parvovirus takes a week to 10 days to incubate.
“The ethical thing would be to quarantine for 10 days, and eliminate
any doubt,” Brockett said.
Fiel objected that Adirondack Save-a-Stray is too small to
hold puppies in quarantine, if they can be adopted instead.