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Epidemiol Infect. 2018 Jul;146(10):1245-1252. doi: 10.1017/S0950268818001267. Epub 2018 May 21.

The risk of rabies spread in Japan: a mathematical modelling assessment.

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Veterinary Epidemiology Unit, Division of Health and Environmental Sciences,Department of Veterinary Medicine,School of Veterinary Medicine, Rakuno Gakuen University,582 Bunkyodai Midorimachi, Ebetsu, 069-8501,Japan.
Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences,Graham Kerr Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ,UK.
Tojinbara Veterinary Service,324-4 Fukutawara, Tougane, 283-0812,Japan.
Laboratory of Veterinary Public Health,Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, University of Tokyo,1-1-1 Yayoi, Tokyo, 113-8657,Japan.


Rabies was eliminated from Japan in 1957. In the 60 years since elimination, vaccination coverage has declined and dog ownership habits have changed. The purpose of this study was to assess the current risk of rabies spread in Japan. A spatially explicit transmission model was developed at the 1 km2 grid scale for Hokkaido and Ibaraki Prefectures. Parameters associated with dog movement and bite injuries were estimated using historical records from Japan, and were used with previously published epidemiological parameters. The final epidemic size, efficacy of rabies contingency plans and the influence of dog owner responses to incursions were assessed by the model. Average outbreak sizes for dog rabies were 3.1 and 4.7 dogs in Hokkaido and Ibaraki Prefectures, respectively. Average number of bite injury cases were 4.4 and 6.7 persons in Hokkaido and Ibaraki Prefectures, respectively. Discontinuation of mandatory vaccination increased outbreak sizes in these prefectures. Sensitivity analyses showed that higher chance of unintentional release of rabid dogs by their owners (from 0.5 to 0.9 probability) increased outbreak size twofolds. Our model outputs suggested that at present, incursions of rabies into Japan are very unlikely to cause large outbreaks. Critically, the reaction of dog owners to their dogs developing rabies considerably impacts the course of outbreaks. Contingency measures should therefore include sensitisation of dog owners.


Mathematical modelling; rabies (animal); veterinary epidemiology

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