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Raccoon Rabies Bate Will Be Spread

By Staff | Aug 26, 2009

The Wetzel-Tyler Health Department has announced that the annual raccoon rabies bait drop is almost upon us. Raccoons in West Virginia will get another dose of rabies vaccine as part of an ongoing multi-agency effort to create a protective rabies barrier across the state.

The vaccine is administered to the raccoons by baits dropped from airplanes and distributed by hand. The baits consist of vaccine packets inside of fishmeal shells. The packets are distributed along a path that crosses 26 counties from the northern panhandle to the southern coal fields.

The fishmeal baits attract raccoons looking for an easy snack. They eat through the bait, puncturing the vaccine packet. The vaccine is absorbed into the raccoon’s mouth, triggering an immune response that protects it from rabies.

The baits are not harmful to humans or pets, but should be left alone. Please remember the following:

-The bait packets containing vaccine are in two forms. One appears square shaped resembling a fig bar (brown in color) and the other looks like a ketchup package with the exterior covered with a fine brown-colored fish meal coating.

-Tell children to leave the baits alone.

-Keep dogs and cats inside or confine them for at least one week after your area is baited. This gives raccoons a chance to find the baits.

-Dogs and cats are attracted to the baits and may eat them. Consumption of these baits by domestic animals or livestock will not hurt them. Companion animals (dogs and cats) may experience an upset stomach if several baits are consumed.

-Do not attempt to take baits away from your pet-you may be bitten.

-Baits found in areas frequented by pets or children should be tossed into deeper cover using either gloves or a paper towel.

-Dispose of damaged baits in the trash.

-Wash skin with soap and water if it is exposed to the actual vaccine (red to purple liquid).

The bait drop is a joint effort of the West Virginia Departments of Health and Human Resources, Agriculture, and the State Division of Natural Resources, local health departments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hand baiting begins about Sept. 1. Aerial flights will be started around Sept. 8 and should continue through Sept. 19. All baiting should be completed by the end of September.

Rabies is a serious public health concern. It is always fatal if left untreated. In the past eight years West Virginia has had an average of 109 confirmed rabies cases-primarily in wildlife-though companion animals and livestock, and occasionally horses are diagnosed positive. Rabies is a 100 percent fatal disease. The CDC reports that about 90 percent of all rabies cases occur in wild animals. Eighty-two percent of wildlife rabies in the United States is in raccoons.

Nationally, costs associated with detection, prevention and control of rabies exceed $300 million each year.

For more information, call your local health department at 304-337-2001 or the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources at 1-800-423-1271, or online at www.wvidep.org/AZIndexofInfectiousDiseases/RabiesHumanorAnimal/RabiesOralVaccinationProject/tabid/1703/Default.aspx.