Med. Weter. 2021, 77 (11), 546-562

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IRYNA MAKOVSKA, MEGAN W. HOWARD, MAKSYM BEZYMENNYI, LUCJAN WITKOWSKI, VITALII NEDOSEKOV, LEONID KORNIENKO, MAKSYM KARPULENKO, MARCO DE NARDI
A descriptive spatiotemporal analysis of rabies in domestic carnivores and wildlife in Ukraine in 2012-2018
Ukraine leads Europe in the number of rabies cases reported in both wild and domestic animals. Endemic rabies in Ukraine poses a threat of rabies spreading into non-endemic neighbouring countries, including Poland, Slovak Republic, Hungary and Romania. This study is the first to collate and analyze rabies cases at the national level in Ukraine. Spatial and temporal analysis was performed to identify space-time clusters of rabies cases using nationally collated rabies surveillance data from 2012-2018. In the study period, 10,717 rabies cases were confirmed, with the majority in domestic carnivores (49.5%; cats: 28.5%; dogs: 21.1%) and the other primarily in foxes (34.0%). Rabies epidemic curves identified peak rabies incidence from October to December for foxes and from October to March for domestic carnivores. The kernel density of rabies for all species indicates a permanently high density in southwest Ukraine (Zakarpattia and Vinnytsia oblasts) and lower in northeast Ukraine (Poltava oblast). The highest density of rabies cases in foxes occurred in oblasts bordering European countries, while rabid domestic carnivores were concentrated near the border with the Russian Federation. The analysis identified 10 statistically significant clusters in foxes and 3 in domestic carnivores, mostly in the same high kernel density locations. Early clusters of foxes were recorded on January 3, 2012 in western Ukraine (ratio, 2.21), and early clusters of domestic carnivores on January 30, 2012 in western Ukraine as well (ratio, 6.39). These findings provide insight into the temporal patterns and distribution of rabies case clusters in wildlife and domestic carnivores in Ukraine. Our study provides policymakers with the first statistically valuable data on the hotspot regions and timing of rabies outbreaks. The analysis may contribute to improved rabies prevention and surveillance strategies by identifying regions for targeted prevention measures so that national programmes for the prevention, surveillance and control of rabies in Ukraine are executed more effectively.
Keywords: rabies cases, Ukraine, domestic carnivores, wildlife carnivores, foxes, temporal patterns, spacetime clusters