After the first recorded outbreak of rabies in the Svalbard Islands (Norway) in 1980, brain tissue from 817 trapped arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) was tested for rabies by a direct fluorescent antibody test. During the same period (1980 to 1990), 29 arctic foxes, 23 polar bears (Ursus maritimus), 19 reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) and five ringed seals (Phoca hispida) were also tested using the same technique. These animals had either been found dead, killed because of abnormal behavior or were apparently healthy when they were collected. Rabies virus antigen was not detected in any of the trapped foxes. Rabies was confirmed in two foxes in 1981, two foxes and one reindeer in 1987, and in one fox in 1990. The presence of rabies in the Svalbard archipelago probably resulted from immigration over the sea ice of an infected host.
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Vol. 28 • No. 1