Reindeer hunters are being advised to get rabies vaccinations and take extra precautions in the field this year after a reindeer and a fox tested positive for the disease in recent months.
The Governor of Svalbard considered canceling hunting season, but after consulting with multiple health-related agencies concluded “this dialogue has not provided formal grounds for the governor to stop the 2018 reindeer hunt,” according to a statement released Monday.
The governor received confirmation from the Veterinary Institute on July 29 that rabies had been detected in a female reindeer that was killed near Ny-Ålesund. A polar fox killed at Hopen in April was also diagnosed with the virus, which is fatal disease for humans and warm blooded-animals. The disease can be prevented through vaccination, but it is not treatable once an infected person starts to display clinical symptoms.
A list of safety precautions by the Institute of Public Health and the Veterinary Institute includes:
• People who are not fully vaccinated against rabies should not participate in this year’s hunt. The full treatment typically consists of three shots administered over a one-month period. Those who have not been vaccinated in more than two years and not recently had the vaccine protection examined through a blood test should receive a booster dose
• Only animals with normal behavior should be hunted. Any sightings of sick animals should be reported to the governor.
• Thick plastic gloves and preferably goggles should be used while slaughtering game, since .
rabies can transfer through skin wounds
• Refrain from separating the head from the body, do not open the spine, and do not cut out the jaw, since the virus can be found in high concentration in saliva and the salivary glands, the brain, spinal cord and the fluid that surrounds the central nervous system.
• Contact health service officials as soon as possible if you happen to cut yourself while slaughtering or handling the game, or if you get saliva or tissue from the brain or spinal cord in the eyes, mouth or on skin even with small wounds or cuts, or if you get bitten by a polar fox. Clean the wound throughly with soap and water. If you are not vaccinated, you need to start the vaccination process immediately.
• Clean knives using soap and water immediately after slaughter and between slaughter, and disinfect gloves and slaughtering tools in a solution of 1:20 household chlorine for 20 minutes.
The governor has also declared that reindeer jaws should not be collected and turned over as has been required in previous years.