JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Canine rabies in Australia: a review of preparedness and research needs

J Sparkes, P J S Fleming, G Ballard, H Scott-Orr, S Durr, M P Ward
Zoonoses and Public Health 2015, 62 (4): 237-53
24934203
Australia is unique as a populated continent in that canine rabies is exotic, with only one likely incursion in 1867. This is despite the presence of a widespread free-ranging dog population, which includes the naturalized dingo, feral domestic dogs and dingo-dog cross-breeds. To Australia's immediate north, rabies has recently spread within the Indonesian archipelago, with outbreaks occurring in historically free islands to the east including Bali, Flores, Ambon and the Tanimbar Islands. Australia depends on strict quarantine protocols to prevent importation of a rabid animal, but the risk of illegal animal movements by fishing and recreational vessels circumventing quarantine remains. Predicting where rabies will enter Australia is important, but understanding dog population dynamics and interactions, including contact rates in and around human populations, is essential for rabies preparedness. The interactions among and between Australia's large populations of wild, free-roaming and restrained domestic dogs require quantification for rabies incursions to be detected and controlled. The imminent risk of rabies breaching Australian borders makes the development of disease spread models that will assist in the deployment of cost-effective surveillance, improve preventive strategies and guide disease management protocols vitally important. Here, we critically review Australia's preparedness for rabies, discuss prevailing assumptions and models, identify knowledge deficits in free-roaming dog ecology relating to rabies maintenance and speculate on the likely consequences of endemic rabies for Australia.

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