Retrospective study of rabies epidemiology in Ukraine (1950-2019)

Keywords: urban rabies; sylvatic rabies; stages of rabies in Ukraine; rabies epizootics; reservoirs of rabies; sources of rabies; dog rabies; fox rabies; preventive vaccination.


During many decades, rabies remained endemic on the territory of Ukraine. In certain historical periods, the epizootic process of rabies developed with the alternate inclusion of different species of animals as a source and a reservoir of the virus which are of great interest to many scientists. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to conduct an analysis of rabies epidemiology on the territory of Ukraine from 1950 to 2019 based on collected reliable archival data. Collected archival data have shown that over the past 70 years sources of rabies infection varied from domestic to wild carnivorous and vice versa with three major epizootic peaks. The first and the highest peak in the entire study period was recorded in 1951 (3 724 cases) and was caused by the spread of the rabies virus solely through dogs. The second peak with lower number of cases was recorded in 1979 (1 594 cases) when the dominant role in the spread of rabies virus turned to foxes. Finally, the third peak in 2007 (2 932 cases) was triggered by the combination of animals (foxes, dogs, and cats) as the source of the pathogen. Considering significant peaks and downturns and the varying degrees of involvement of domestic and wild animals in spreading of the pathogen, we have identified five historically important stages in the development of the epizootic process: the stage of «urban» or «dog» rabies (1950–1959), relative stability (1960–1969), «sylvatic» or «fox» rabies (1970–1990), relative safety (1991–1999), and expansion (2000–2019). At the stage of «urban» rabies dogs played a significant role as a source and a reservoir of the virus. In the epizootic aspect, dogs made up 54.3 % of all rabies cases, while cats and wild animals (wolves, raccoon dogs, foxes, raccoons, martens, and lynxes) – 1.58 % and only 0.05 % respectively. Domestic animals (cattle, pigs, horses, goats, etc.) made up the rest 44.07 %, but they were «victims» and did not contribute to the further spread of the virus. Moreover, in 89 % of cases dogs were a source of rabies for humans. The stage of «relative stability» was marked by decline of epizootics throughout Ukraine and decrease in the number of deaths to 140 per year. «Sylvatic» or «fox» rabies stage was characterized by the involvement in the epizootic process of a new species of animals – the red fox (Vulpes vulpes). During this stage the proportion of wild animals in the total number of cases was 33.9 %, cats – 17.7 %, and dogs – 12 %. In 46.5 % of cases foxes were the main source of rabies for humans, while cats and dogs in 34.2 % and 11.8 % of cases respectively. The stage of «relative safety» was marked by the repeated prolonged decline of epizootics and the increasing role of dogs and cats in the epizootic process. The last stage of the expansion took place against the background of the increasing population size and proportion of rabies cases among domestic carnivores (up to 44.6 %) and foxes (up to 36.5 %), which contributed to the widest distribution of the virus, and remains a significant problem nowadays. While in the period of «urban rabies» vaccination of dogs together with the regulation of their population allowed to reduce the number of rabies cases by 26 times in 15 years, nowadays regulation of fox and domestic carnivores populations in combination with oral vaccination of wild and parenteral vaccination of companion animals, unfortunately, do not give visible result. So, it is extremely important not only to increase the quality of preventive measures against rabies, but also to increase their quantity in order to cover all three major sources of rabies – dogs, cats, and foxes.


Download data is not yet available.


Anderson, R. M., Jackson, H. C., May, R. M., & Smith, A. M. (1981). Population dynamics of fox rabies in Europe. Nature, 289(5800), 765–771.

Benavides, J. A., Valderrama, W., & Streicker, D. G. (2016). Spatial expansions and travelling waves of rabies in vampire bats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 283(1832), 20160328.

Biek, R., Henderson, J. C., Waller, L. A., Rupprecht, C. E., & Real, L. A. (2007). A high-resolution genetic signature of demographic and spatial expansion in epizootic rabies virus. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(19), 7993–7998.

Blancou, J., & Aubert, M. (1991). Fox rabies. In Baer, G. (ed.) The natural history of rabies. 2 nd edn. In CRC Press, Boca Ration, Ann Arbor, Boston.

Botvinkin, A. & Kosenko, M. (2004). Rabies in the European parts of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. In King, A. A., Fooks, A. R., Aubert, M., & Wandeler, A. I. (Eds.), Historical perspective of rabies in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. Paris, OIE World Organization for Animal Health, 47–63.

Cárdenas-Canales, E. M., Gigante, C. M., Greenberg, L., Velasco-Villa, A., Ellison, J. A., Satheshkumar, P. S., Medina-Magües, L. G., Griesser, R., Falendysz, E., Amezcua, I., Osorio, J. E., & Rocke, T. E. (2020). Clinical presentation and serologic response during a rabies epizootic in Captive Common Vampire Bats (Desmodus rotundus). Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease, 5(1), 34.

Chirkova, A. F. (1953). Materials on dynamic of fox abundance in Voronezh Province in connection with prognoses of its harvests. In Questions of Fur Animals Biology. Ministry of Agriculture Publisher, Moscow, 8, 20–31 (in Russian).

Cliquet, F, Freuling, C., Smreczak, M., Van der Poel, W., Horton, D., Fooks, A., Robardet, E., Picard-Meyer, E., & Müller, T. (2010). Development of harmonised schemes for monitoring and reporting of rabies in animals in the European Union. EFSA Supporting Publications, 7(7), 60.

Cliquet, F., Picard-Meyer, E., & Robardet, E. (2014). Rabies in Europe: what are the risks? Expert Review of Anti-Infective Therapy, 12(8), 905–908.

Dürr, S., & Ward, M. P. (2015). Development of a novel rabies simulation model for application in a non-endemic environment. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 9(6), e0003876.

Fisher, C. R., Streicker, D. G., & Schnell, M. J. (2018). The spread and evolution of rabies virus: conquering new frontiers. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 16(4), 241–255.

Fooks, A. R. (2005). Rabies remains a «neglected disease». Eurosurveillance, 10(11), 1–2.

Freuling, C. M., Hampson, K., Selhorst, T., Schröder, R., Meslin, F. X., Mettenleiter, T. C., & Müller, T. (2013). The elimination of fox rabies from Europe: determinants of success and lessons for the future. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 368(1623), 20120142.

Gholami, A., Massoudi, S., Kharazian, M. M., Ghazi, M. M., Marashi, M., Bashar, R., Fayaz, A., Fazeli, M., Farahtaj, F., Howaizi, N., & Shirzadi, M. R. (2017). The role of the gray wolf in rabies transmission in Iran and preliminary assessment of an oral rabies vaccine in this animal. Journal of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 5(3), 56–61.

Grishok, L. (1977). Epizootiology of rabies in Ukrainian SSR. Veterinary, 5, 53–56 (in Ukrainian).

Gucht, S. V., & Roux, I. L. (2008). Rabies control in Belgium: from eradication in foxes to import of a contaminated dog. Vlaams Diergeneeskundig Tijdschrift, 77, 376–384.

Hampson, K., Coudeville, L., Lembo, T., Sambo, M., Kieffer, A., Attlan, M., Barrat, J., Blanton, J. D., Briggs, D. J., Cleaveland, S., Costa, P., Freuling, C. M., Hiby, E., Knopf, L., Leanes, F., Meslin, F.-X., Metlin, A., Miranda, M. E., Müller, T., & Dushoff, J. (2015). Estimating the global burden of endemic canine rabies. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 9(4), e0003709.

Hikufe, E. H., Freuling, C. M., Athingo, R., Shilongo, A., Ndevaetela, E. E., Helao, M., Shiindi, M., Hassel, R., Bishi, A., Khaiseb, S., Kabajani, J., van der Westhuizen, J., Torres, G., Britton, A., Letshwenyo, M., Schwabenbauer, K., Mettenleiter, T. C., Denzin, N., Amler, S., & Maseke, A. (2019). Ecology and epidemiology of rabies in humans, domestic animals and wildlife in Namibia, 2011–2017. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 13(4), e0007355.

Hunt, N., Carroll, A., & Wilson, T. P. (2018). Spatiotemporal analysis and predictive modeling of rabies in Tennessee. Journal of Geographic Information System, 10(01), 89–110.

Isakov, U. A. (1949). About rabies among wild animals inhabited in the Delta of Volga. In Research on Regional, Experimental and Descriptive Parazitology, 6, 82–86 (in Russian).

Ivanov, M. I., & Nedosiekov, V. V. (2009). Study of «field» rabies virus isolates circulating in Ukraine. Veterynarna biotekhnolohiia, 14, 113–119 (in Ukrainian).

Kantorovich, R. A. (1968). Some aspects of the world distribution and ecology of rabies. In Medical Geography, Moscow, 273–320 (in Russian).

King, A. A., Fooks, A. R., Aubert, M., & Wandeler, A. I. (2004). Historical perspective of rabies in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. Paris, OIE World Organization for Animal Health.

Kornienko, L. E., Moroz, O. A., Mezhensky, A. O., Skorokhod, S. V., Datsenko, R. A., Karpulenko, M. S., Polupan, I. M., Dzyuba, Y. M., Nedosekov, V. V., Makovskaya, I. F., Hibaliuk, Y. O., Sonko, M. P., Tsarenko, T. M., & Pishchanskyi, O. V. (2019). Epizootological and epidemiological aspects for rabies in Ukraine for the period from 1999 to 2018. Veterinary Science, Technologies of Animal Husbandry and Nature Management, (3), 90–109.

Kuzmina, N. A., Lemey, P., Kuzmin, I. V., Mayes, B. C., Ellison, J. A., Orciari, L. A., Hightower, D., Taylor, S. T., & Rupprecht, C. E. (2013). The phylogeography and spatiotemporal spread of South-Central Skunk rabies virus. PLoS ONE, 8(12), e82348.

Kuzmin, I. V., Botvinkin, A. D., McElhinney, L. M., Smith, J. S., Orciari, L. A., Hughes, G. J., Fooks, A., & Rupprecht, C. E. (2004). Molecular epidemiology of terrestrial rabies in the former Soviet Union. Journal of Wildlife Diseases, 40(4), 617–631.

Mahadevan, A., Suja, M. S., Mani, R. S., & Shankar, S. K. (2016). Perspectives in diagnosis and treatment of rabies viral encephalitis: insights from pathogenesis. Neurotherapeutics, 13(3), 477–492.

Maki, J., Guiot, A.-L., Aubert, M., Brochier, B., Cliquet, F., Hanlon, C. A., King, R., Oertli, E. H., Rupprecht, C. E., Schumacher, C., Slate, D., Yakobson, B., Wohlers, A., & Lankau, E. W. (2017). Oral vaccination of wildlife using a vaccinia–rabies-glycoprotein recombinant virus vaccine (RABORAL V-RG®): a global review. Veterinary Research, 48(1), 57.

Makovska, I. F., Nedosekov, V. V., Polupan, I. M., & Latmanizova, T. S. (2018). Distribution trend rabies in cats in Ukraine. Scientific Messenger of LNU of Veterinary Medicine and Biotechnologies, 20(92), 18–23.

Mogilevsky, B. Yu. (1997). Practical rabbiology. Kherson, Dnipro (in Ukrainian).

Nychyk, S., Zhukorskiy, O., Polupan, I., Ivanov, M., & Nikitova, A. (2013). Improvement Control System of Rabies in Ukraine. Online Journal of Public Health Informatics, 5(1).

Pastoret, P. P., & Brochier, B. (1999). Epidemiology and control of fox rabies in Europe. Vaccine, 17(13–14), 1750–1754.

Pavlov, M. P. (1953). Mass diseases of foxes in Crimean. Zoonosis Infections. Kiyv, 135–146 (in Ukrainian).

Picot, V., Rasuli, A., Abella-Rider, A., Saadatian-Elahi, M., Aikimbayev, A., Barkia, A., Benmaiz, S., Bouslama, Z., De Balogh, K., Dehove, A., Davlyatov, F., Farahtaj, F., Gongal, G., Gholami, A., Imnadze, P., Issad, M., Khoufi, S., Nedosekov, V., Rafila, A., & Nel, L. (2017). The middle east and eastern Europe rabies expert bureau (MEEREB) third meeting: Lyon-France (7–8 April, 2015). Journal of Infection and Public Health, 10(6), 695–701.

Polupan, I., Golik, M., & Nedosekov, V. (2017a). Antropurgisation of rabies in Ukraine. Ukrainian Journal of Veterinary Sciences, 265, 182–188 (in Ukrainian).

Polupan, I., Bezymennyi, M., Zh, D., & Nychyk, S. (2017b). Spatial and temporal patterns of enzootic rabies on the territory of Chernihiv oblast of Ukraine. Journal for Veterinary Medicine, Biotechnology and Biosafety, 3(2), 31–36.

Polupan, I., Bezymennyi, M., Gibaliuk, Y., Drozhzhe, Z., Rudoi, O., Ukhovskyi, V., Nedosekov, V., & De Nardi, M. (2019). An analysis of rabies incidence and its geographic apread in the buffer area among orally vaccinated wildlife in Ukraine from 2012 to 2016. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 6, 1–13.

Recuenco, S., Blanton, J. D., & Rupprecht, C. E. (2012). A spatial model to forecast raccoon rabies emergence. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, 12(2), 126–137.

Robardet, E., Bosnjak, D., Englund, L., Demetriou, P., Rosado, P., & Cliquet, F. (2019). Zero endemic cases of wildlife rabies (Classical Rabies Virus, RABV) in the European Union by 2020 : An achievable goal. Tropical Medicine and Infectious Disease, 4(4), 124.

Rupprecht, C. E., Bannazadeh Baghi, H., Del Rio Vilas, V. J., Gibson. A., D., Lohr, F., Meslin, F. X., Seetahal, J.F.R., Shervell, K., & Gamble, L. (2018). Historical, current and expected future occurrence of rabies in enzootic regions. Revue Scientifique et Technique de l’OIE, 37(2), 729–739.

Rupprecht, C. E., Turmelle, A., & Kuzmin, I. V. (2011). A perspective on lyssavirus emergence and perpetuation. Current Opinion in Virology, 1(6), 662–670.

Scherbak, Yu., & Ryaboshapka, A. (1978). Ecological and epidemiological problems of wildlife rabies. Journal of Epidemiology and Immunobiology, 12, 14–21 (in Russian).

Selimov, M. A. (1978). Rabies. Medicine, Moscow (in Russian).

Tomah, O., & Lebedeva, N. I. (2015). Red fox (vulpes vulpes) number dynamics and its predetermining factors in Zaporizhzhya region. Biological Conservation, 17, 52–57 (in Ukrainian).

Vedernikov, V. (1974). Animal rabies. Kolos, Moscow (in Russian).

Vitasek, J. (2012). A review of rabies elimination in Europe. Veterinární Medicína, 49(5), 171–185.

Vos, A., Freuling, C., Eskiizmirliler, S., Ün, H., Aylan, O., Johnson, N., Gürbüz, S., Müller, W., Akkoca, N., Müller, T., Fooks, A. R., & Askaroglu, H. (2009). Rabies in foxes, Aegean region, Turkey. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 15(10), 1620–1622.

Wei, Y., Liu, X., Li, D., Chen, S., Xu, J., Chen, K., & Yang, Z. (2018). Canine rabies control and human exposure 1951–2015, Guangzhou, China. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 97(1), 51–58.

WHO. (2018). WHO Expert Consultation on rabies. World Health Organization. Technical Report Series, 931, 1–88, back cover.

Abstract views: 636
PDF Downloads: 421
How to Cite
Makovska, I. F., Nedosekov, V. V., Kornienko, L. Y., Novokhatny, Y. O., Nebogatkin, I. V., & Yustyniuk, V. Y. (2020). Retrospective study of rabies epidemiology in Ukraine (1950-2019). Theoretical and Applied Veterinary Medicine, 8(1), 36-49.