I know it's easy to live in fear of Rabies, so I think it's worth getting things into perspective with a few facts and figures...
The WHO list Bulgaria under the “High Risk” list of countries for Rabies, yet, on its country profile for travellers to Bulgaria, it lists “Alcohol” as the only Risk Factor to consider. For those of us familiar with Bulgaria, I for one can say this is undoubtedly true – you are much more likely to encounter alcohol related risks than rabies whilst visiting or living in the country!
Having being involved extensively in street dog populations in Bulgaria for 5 years, I can honestly say, I have never personally seen a rabid dog, nor heard of anyone encountering a rabid dog.
For example, the health statistics for 2009 (the year used as the annual average) the WHO list:
2009 – 3 dog, 3 cat, 4 livestock and 48 wild animal cases in Bulgaria (compared to 35 dog, 28 cat, 44 livestock and 408 wild cases in neighbouring Romania) – with zero human cases in Bulgaria and only one in Romania for the same year. These figures are represented as being a current annual average.
Incidentally, since 1977 (when the database began) to present day, the WHO report only one human case of Rabies in Bulgaria, which was in 1994. Compare this with the UK in 2002 when a man died of rabies in Scotland after being bitten by a bat.
So, why is Bulgaria deemed a High Risk country by the WHO? Well, according to the UK's DEFRA, it is classed as Low Risk, yet it still falls into the Group 3 “High Risk” category from an animal import view, because it has:
“Greater than five rabies cases reported in cats and dogs between 2007-09. For countries where quantitative data on rabies cases are incomplete or unavailable they must lie in the ‘High risk’ category of the HPA classification, be recorded as ‘Rabies present in domestic and wild animals’ by NaTHNaC or be reported as ‘Disease present but without quantitative data’ by WAHID.”
According to the WHO Collaboration Centre for Rabies Surveillance and Research, the following rabies case statistics for Bulgaria have been collated:
2007: 7 6
2008: 5 4
2009: 3 3
2010: 1 3
Statistics source: http://www.who-rabies-bulletin.org/Quer ... lance.aspx