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Prevention of infectious animal diseases

In order to prevent and control infectious animal diseases, the Veterinary and Food Board has prepared national infectious animal disease control programmes and establishes annual implementing measures to ensure that they are complied with. The number of animals and herds per species and the risk of infectious animal diseases in Estonia and abroad are taken into account when preparing the implementing measures.

The implementing measures are approved by a directive of the head of the Veterinary and Food Board.

The cost of facilities and procedural expenses related to complying with the implementing measures (e.g. collection and analysis of samples, inspection of a herd, vaccination against rabies) are covered through national public funding. The keeper of an animal is obligated to ensure facilities for complying with the implementing measures (e.g. restraining the animal, ensuring the safety of the performer of the implementing measures, access to the object of supervision) and the necessary transportation costs.

The implementing measures of the national infectious animal disease control programmes include the scope of vaccinations and diagnostic testing and planning of herd inspections.

Vaccinations mainly include the vaccination of wild animals (foxes, raccoon dogs) and domestic animals (cats, dogs) against rabies.

The aim of diagnostic testing is to ascertain the possible occurrence of infectious diseases, verify their non-occurrence in Estonia, and ensure the protection of human health from diseases which are common for both animals and humans (e.g. salmonellosis) if a disease is discovered.

The following infectious animal diseases are subject to diagnostic testing:

  • certain especially dangerous infectious animal diseases (e.g. bird flu, swine fevers, bluetongue);
  • infectious diseases which require testing to declare the country free of an infectious animal disease (e.g. leucosis) or to retain such status (e.g. brucellosis and tuberculosis);
  • infectious diseases which are also infectious for humans (e.g. salmonellosis, trichinellosis);
  • other infectious animal diseases (e.g. the Schmallenberg virus) which may result in significant losses for an animal holding (decrease in production, reduction in fecundity, increase in abortions and stillbirths, etc.)

Animal holdings are inspected regularly. The inspections are carried out by animal health supervisory officials of the Veterinary and Food Board. A control report is always prepared for the inspections and the animal holding receives a copy.

Each year, the Veterinary and Food Board collects data on the implemented measures to analyse them and gain an overview of the situation of infectious animal diseases in Estonia.

The situation of infectious animal diseases in Estonia can be considered good thanks to the measures implemented over the years. Especially dangerous infectious diseases have occurred rarely, and we have successfully managed to keep the spread of infectious diseases under control.

There have not been diagnoses of bovine tuberculosis and caprine brucellosis for a very long time; the last cases of bovine brucellosis occurred in the 1960s. Estonia has officially been declared free of bovine, ovine, and caprine brucellosis and of bovine tuberculosis.

Bovine leucosis was a serious problem in the second half of the previous century, when nearly half of the bovine animals in Estonia were infected. The spread of the disease is now under control and only a few individual infected animals have been discovered.

BSE (so-called mad cow disease) has never been diagnosed in Estonia.

The most common diseases diagnosed in Estonia are salmonellosis, trichinellosis in wild animals, and, in rarer cases, leptospirosis.

Bees have been diagnosed with varroasis and American foulbrood.

The last widespread outbreak of rabies in Estonia occurred in 1968, when the disease spread over the entire country with foxes and raccoon dogs. Since that time, hundreds of domestic and wild animals have died from rabies each year. The situation related to this disease was the most severe in 2003, when laboratory testing found rabies to be the cause of death of 816 animals.

Thanks to the oral vaccination of wild animals against rabies carried out over the years, we have managed to stop the spread of rabies. The last case of rabies which could directly be associated with the spread of the disease among the animal population in Estonia occurred in March 2008 in Harju county. The very last case of rabies in Estonia was diagnosed in January 2011, when an infected raccoon dog was found in Värska rural municipality in Põlva county.

Owing to the geographic location of Estonia, rabies can never be considered a thing of the past and therefore, the oral vaccination of wild animals against rabies will be continued along the country’s borders to stop the spread of the disease. Vaccinating pet animals is also mandatory.

In 2013, Estonia declared itself free of rabies under the OIE rules.

Last updated: 7 January 2020