Rabies is a viral disease that is transmitted from animals to humans. When symptoms appear, and without immediate treatment, rabies is fatal in 100% of cases. It can be avoided thanks to vaccination. In Belgium, the main threat still comes from the illegal importation of dogs from infected countries.

What is rabies?

Rabies is a viral disease transmitted by a virus from the Rhabdoviridae family.

The virus is transmitted from animals to humans (zoonosis). Infected animals transmit the virus through a bite, a scratch, a lick or contact with a wound. 

In humans as in animals, the rabies virus causes encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) which is always fatal. Death will occur 1 to 3 weeks after the first symptoms appear. 

Rabies eradicated in Belgium

The eradication of fox rabies (vulpine rabies) in Belgium was declared in 2001. No case of indigenous animal rabies had been diagnosed since 1999. 

Sciensano provides epidemiological surveillance of rabies in Belgium and takes responsibility for diagnosis and treatment following exposure. It monitors the efficacy of vaccines against rabies. The Belgian Official Medicines Control Laboratory (OMCL) of Sciensano, together with the European OMCL network, is responsible for the quality control of the rabies vaccine prior to marketing.

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