12th Annual Rabies Bait Drop Underway

For Immediate Release: August 26, 2008
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
802-863-7281

BURLINGTON – The 12th annual Rabies Bait Drop started Monday with more than 500,000 baits distributed into a carefully plotted corridor of remote areas of Vermont, including lowlands and valleys along the Canadian border and down into Chittenden County.

The fishmeal baits, filled with capsules containing rabies vaccine, will also be placed by hand by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials in more populated areas.

“The bait drop is more focused this year on slowing the spread of rabies in northern Vermont, and the USDA plan is to more than double the number of baits along the border with Canada,” said Dr. Robert Johnson, state public health veterinarian with the Vermont Department of Health.

So far in 2008, there have been 51 confirmed cases of rabies, mostly in raccoons and skunks. Rabies is a fatal, viral disease found mainly in wildlife (especially raccoons, foxes, bats and skunks), but can infect domestic animals and people. There has never been a human case of rabies reported to the Vermont Department of Health. The virus can be contracted through the bite of an infected animal.

Five twin-engine, white propeller planes operating out of Plattsburgh International Airport will fly along uniform grid lines, dropping the bait at a rate of three per second.

The bait drop is part of a more aggressive approach to stopping the spread of rabies northward along the Vermont/Canadian border that included an increase in wildlife officials live trapping raccoons, skunks and foxes. The USDA has worked to trap, vaccinate and release (TVR) approximately 65 percent of the raccoon population in three primary areas, Grand Isle, Franklin and Orleans Counties.

The small wax-cased bait, dropped from an altitude of 500 feet, cannot cause rabies if it is touched or eaten and is not harmful to children or pets. Leave baits untouched, unless it is discovered on a lawn or driveway were it is unlikely to attract a raccoon. Remove the bait with a glove and wash your hands with soap and water.

Raccoons accounted for 103 of the 165 rabies-positive animals tested by the Health Department in 2007, with 85 cases located in Franklin County. In 2006, 73 rabies cases were confirmed, an increase from 59 cases in 2005.

The rise in the recorded number of cases over the last three years is due, in part, to enhanced surveillance and trapping efforts. More than 1,200 animals, mostly raccoons, were trapped and vaccinated last year.

Vermonters are asked to avoid any animal that exhibits strange behavior, and do not try to trap or capture the animal themselves, but instead to call the state’s Rabies Hotline at 1-800-472-2437 (1-800-4-RABIES).

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