Annual Rabies Bait Drop to Begin August 26

For Immediate Release: August 22, 2005

Media Contact: Communication Office

BURLINGTON – Pink liquid rabies vaccine housed within fishmeal bait pellets will be dropped from four low-flying planes for three days, and placed by hand, in rural areas of Vermont and New Hampshire beginning Aug. 26.

The bait drop, which aims to vaccinate raccoons, skunks, coyotes and foxes against rabies is now in its 9th year in Vermont.

A total of 39 animals have tested positive for rabies in Vermont this year, including 23 raccoons. Only 16 animals tested positive for the disease by mid-August of last year. No human cases of rabies have been reported in Vermont, and nationally only one or two cases are reported each year.

The bait cannot cause rabies if it is touched or eaten and is not harmful to children or pets, but the pellets should not be handled or disturbed so that wildlife can eat them.

The bait drop will assist scientists, including research veterinarians and wildlife biologists, in their efforts to keep rabies from spreading across the U.S. and Canadian border. Four small airplanes and pilots from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, flying out of Newport, Vt., will drop bait from an altitude of 500 feet.

“Rabies vaccine has nearly wiped out the disease in the domestic animal population, and the bait drop is an effective way to target wildlife that is susceptible to the disease,” said Dr. Robert Johnson, state veterinarian for the Vermont Department of Health.

Dr. Johnson reminds pet owners of stay current on rabies vaccinations for all domestic animals. The bait drop is a precautionary measure and does not rid Vermont of rabid animals. The 39 confirmed cases of rabies this year represent those cases where the animals came in contact with humans, the animals were trapped or killed, and later tested positive for the disease at the Health Department laboratory.

Raccoon rabies was first confirmed in southern Vermont in 1994. Since then, hundreds of cases of rabies have been confirmed and the outbreak has spread northward.

Common sense is one of the best defenses against rabies. Keep a healthy distance from wild animals and, if bitten, call the Vermont Rabies Hotline 1-800-472-2437 toll free in Vermont.