USDA, public health departments, drop rabies vaccine baits

Published: Oct. 21, 2019 at 2:13 PM EDT
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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Tennessee and Kentucky Departments of Public Health partnered to protect people and pets from any threats of rabies by dropping oral rabies vaccine baits (ORV).

The oral rabies vaccine baits were dispersed from October 3rd-20th through parts of Eastern Kentucky after a raccoon in the Big Stone Gap area of Virginia tested positive for rabies a few years ago.

Since then, they have not had any cases in those areas, which officials conclude to be a successful vaccination.

Oral rabies vaccine Raboral V-RG vaccines are sachets used to immunize rabies in raccoons, but are attractive to foxes and coyotes as well.

"We know there are raccoon-variant rabies in states surrounding Kentucky, we've never found any in Kentucky. But, our goal for this program is to keep raccoon-variant rabies from entering Kentucky," said Wildlife Biologist Erin Patrick.

Though 18 counties in the targeted area are in Tennessee, both Harlan County and Letcher County in Kentucky are affected due to how close they are to Big Stone Gap.

Biologists say they have taken a preventative stance since 2017 because of the threat rabies poses.

"Rabies is considered a one-hundred percent deadly disease. And, that is for wild animals, domestic animals and, heaven forbid, if a human were to contract rabies and not seek treatment," said Patrick.

If you find any bait, officials say to leave it alone unless it is near children or pets. If you do choose to move it there are specific ways to handle it. Officials say to wear gloves when picking the bait up and place it in a wooded area. Any bait that is not intact should be thrown away and you should thoroughly wash your hands afterward.

Officials say do not panic if your pet comes into contact with the baits, however, if multiple sachets are eaten they can cause your pet to have an upset stomach. If your pet might bite you or you risk touching the bait yourself, do not try to take it from your pet. If you find any more in the area, you are asked to move them to the nearest woods.

The baits will be gone within 10 to 14 days after the aircraft dropped the bait. Raccoons will be live-trapped about a month from the day the bait dropped as well.

If you have any questions concerning the bait, call Wildlife Services at (866) 487-3297.