Wildlife Rabies Vaccination Project Helps Protect People And Pets

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Tennessee Department of Health is working with the United States Department of Agriculture again this fall to help prevent rabies by distributing oral rabies vaccine for wild raccoons along Tennessee’s borders with Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. The annual baiting program administered by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, will begin in Tennessee on Tuesday.

“Control of raccoon rabies is vital to public health, and we are pleased to be part of this important and effective program to reduce rabies in wildlife,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Reducing rabies cases among wild animals helps reduce opportunities for transmission of this dangerous virus to people, pets and livestock.”

Vaccine packets are placed inside fishmeal blocks or coated with fishmeal as bait to attract raccoons. These baits will be distributed throughout a 15-county area in Tennessee to create a barrier against the spread of rabies. The barrier varies from 30 to 60 miles wide and covers approximately 3,400 square miles, running along the Virginia/North Carolina border in northeast Tennessee to the Georgia border in southeast Tennessee near Chattanooga.

Baits will be distributed by helicopter and by hand from vehicles in urban and suburban areas and dropped from specially-equipped airplanes in rural areas. This will be the first time baits have been distributed by helicopter in Tennessee instead of by ground in urban areas including Bristol, Chattanooga, Church Hill, Cleveland, Erwin, Greeneville, Kingsport and Johnson City. Baiting will be done by ground in portions of Hamilton County as a part of a research project.

The oral rabies vaccine will be distributed on the following schedule:

  • Oct. 1 - 11:  Carter, Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington Counties
  • Oct. 3 - 16:  Bradley, Hamilton, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe and Polk Counties

“Rabies is most common in wild animals in Tennessee, and it poses a risk to humans and domestic animals that come into contact with wildlife,” said John Dunn, DVM, PhD, deputy state epidemiologist. "It’s important for pet owners to make sure rabies vaccinations are current for dogs and cats to ensure their health and safety, and help provide a barrier between rabies in wild animals and humans. It is also extremely important that raccoons not be transported from one area of the state to another."

Rabies, once disease develops, is almost universally fatal. However, it is completely preventable if vaccine is provided soon after exposure.

This is the 12th year Tennessee has participated in baiting with rabies vaccine to slow and possibly halt the spread of raccoon rabies. There have been no cases of raccoons with rabies in Tennessee this year. Since raccoon rabies was first detected in Tennessee in 2003, the disease has not spread as rapidly here as has been documented in other areas of the United States.

Although the vaccine products are safe, the USDA Wildlife Services program has issued these precautions:

  • If you or your pet finds bait, confine your pet and look for other baits in the area. Wear gloves or use a towel and toss baits into a wooded or fencerow area. These baits should be removed from where your pet could easily eat them. Eating these baits won’t harm your pet, but consuming several baits might upset your pet’s stomach. 
  • Don’t try to remove an oral rabies vaccine packet from your pet’s mouth, as you could be bitten.
  • Wear gloves or use a towel when you pick up bait. While there is no harm in touching undamaged baits, they have a strong fishmeal smell. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water if there is any chance the vaccine packet has been ruptured.
  • Instruct children to leave baits alone.
  • A warning label on each bait advises people not to touch the bait, and contains the rabies information line telephone number. 

For additional information on rabies prevention or the oral rabies vaccine program, call the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free rabies line at 866 487-3297 or the Tennessee Department of Health at 615 741-7247. Rabies information can also be found on the TDH website at http://health.state.tn.us/FactSheets/rabies.htm

The Tennessee Department of Health urges individuals to enjoy wild animals such as raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats from a distance and keep pets up-to-date on rabies vaccination to help prevent exposure to animals that can carry rabies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website to help educate children about rabies. Visit the site at www.cdc.gov/rabiesandkids/.


News And Events From Outdoor Chattanooga

Here are upcoming news and events from Outdoor Chattanooga. The asterisk indicates newly-added events. Outdoor Chattanooga Featured Event Bellyoga Dance Workshop  Tonight , Apr. 22 The Chattanooga Track Club will host a  free Bellyoga workshop  tonight , Wed., Apr. 22, from  5:30 - 6:30  at Outdoor Chattanooga, ... (click for more)

TDEC Announces 2025 Solid Waste And Materials Management Plan

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) announced on Monday its 2025 Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan at the 2015 Environmental Show of the South in Gatlinburg, Tenn.  “The plan marks a new era in sustainable materials management in Tennessee, serving as a roadmap for Tennessee solid waste stakeholders,” TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau ... (click for more)

State Attorney General Says City Council Cannot Make Taxis Not Registered In Hamilton County Go Through Emissions Testing

The state attorney general's office has ruled that the City Council cannot require that taxis not registered in Hamilton County go through emissions testing. The city is dealing with the new Uber taxi service that has an out-of-town owner. Locally-owned cabs have to go through the annual emissions testing. The opinion says that local taxi owners cannot get around the emissions ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Area Bracing For Possibility Of Isolated Severe Storms, Tornadoes Not Ruled Out

The National Weather Service is feeling uncertain about today's weather pattern and has not ruled out the possibility of isolated, severe thunderstorms or an isolated tornado in our area. The greatest threat seems to be between 4 and 7 p.m. this evening. Below is the latest update: HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK...UPDATED NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MORRISTOWN TN 127 PM EDT SAT ... (click for more)

The Heart Of A Teacher Makes A Difference - And Response (2)

In less than four weeks, I expect to be one of 216 graduating seniors from East Hamilton School. One could say all possible variables help a student rise to the highest levels in school; but a student is more than his environment or genetic code. He is a mixture of his own propensity and dedication to academics, coupled with a systemic team of mentors who give their all as a student’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: FBI To Study ‘Lickers’

About 25 years ago there was a terrifying movie called “The Silence of the Lambs.” It was so good it won the Academy Awards in all five categories – Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Adapted Screenplay. Further, Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster were brilliant, but do you remember the third “star?” Scott Glenn played a character named “Jack Crawford,” the ... (click for more)