For Immediate Release: August 8, 2018
Ben Truman, Vermont Department of Health
802-951-5153 / 802-863-7281
U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services
22nd Annual Rabies Bait Drop Begins in Vermont
450,000 baited rabies vaccine packs expected to be distributed
BURLINGTON – The annual Rabies Bait Drop, a cooperative effort between Vermont and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services to stop the spread of the rabies, starts on August 8. The approximately week-long bait drop is part of a nationally coordinated effort to halt the fatal disease.
Rabies vaccine, in the form of a sweet-smelling oral bait that is attractive to raccoons and skunks, will be dropped in rural areas from low-flying aircraft and placed by hand in residential centers. Approximately 450,000 quarter-sized blister packs containing rabies vaccine will be distributed in more than 110 Vermont communities in nine counties. The airplane co-pilots control where the bait falls by using an on/off switch. This allows them to avoid dropping the bait on roadways, near homes and other places where people are most likely to be.
Health officials said the bait packs are not poisonous, but they ask that anyone who finds rabies vaccine bait to leave it undisturbed so that it can be eaten by the wild animals. “The rabies bait packs are not harmful to adults, children, pets or wildlife, and you can’t get rabies from the bait,” said Vermont Public Health Veterinarian Natalie Kwit.
If the bait must be moved, use gloves or a plastic bag in case the blister pack is damaged. If your pet eats a bait, or if a child brings one home, let officials know by calling the Vermont Rabies Hotline at 1-800-4-RABIES (1-800-472-2437) or call the toll-free number printed on the bait.
Rabies is a deadly viral disease of the brain that infects mammals. It is most often seen in raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, but unvaccinated pets and livestock can also get rabies. The virus is spread through the bite of an infected animal or contact with its saliva. If left untreated, rabies is almost always fatal in humans and animals. However, treatment with the rabies vaccine is nearly 100 percent effective when given soon after a person is bitten by a rabid animal.
So far this year, 16 animals in Vermont have tested positive for rabies, and seven of those have been raccoons.
According to wildlife officials, rabid animals often show a change in their normal behavior, but you cannot tell whether an animal has rabies simply by looking at it. People should not touch or pick up wild animals or strays – even baby animals.
In addition to the bait drop, a USDA study in Burlington that began in 2015 is evaluating the impact of human residential density and vaccine bait density on the effectiveness of the oral rabies vaccine used in the bait.
Learn more about rabies in Vermont and the oral rabies vaccine bait drop at healthvermont.gov/rabies.
Watch a video of a 2016 aerial bait drop over West Virginia: https://youtu.be/hGbnICU5-V8?list=PL46328461CF9E31E4
If you suspect an animal may have rabies, call the Rabies Hotline: 1-800-4-RABIES (1-800-472-2437) or 1-802-223-8697
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