New Dates Set For Wildlife Rabies Vaccination Project

Wednesday, October 23, 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. After a delay due to the federal government shutdown, the annual baiting program administered by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, is now underway.

“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. 19-21:  hand distribution of baits in Hamilton County
  • Oct. 22-24:  helicopter bait distribution in Hamilton and Bradley Counties (weather permitting)
  • Oct. 29-31:  helicopter bait distribution in Carter, Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington Counties (weather permitting)
  • Oct. 24-31:  distribution by fixed-wing aircraft in 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. You may also find rabies information 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/.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/


Invasive Zebra Mussels Found In Cherokee Lake

An invasive species has made its way into Cherokee Lake threatening to disrupt the lake’s ecosystem and clog the lake with harmful and unsightly mussel colonies. Last month, an angler fishing near the TWRA boat ramp at Olen Marshall Bridge in Bean Station discovered what he believed to be zebra mussels.  He contacted the TWRA office and biologists were able to positively ... (click for more)

Photo Contest Underway For 2015-16 Tennessee Wildlife Calendar Issue

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is now accepting entries for its 2014-15 photo contest for publication in the Tennessee Wildlife Magazine’s annual calendar issue. All interested photographers are invited to submit their best photos on fishing and wildlife species native to Tennessee, and fishing and hunting scenes in Tennessee. Interested photographers must submit ... (click for more)

2 Suspects Sought In Armed Robbery At Highway 153 Long John Silver's

Police are searching for two suspects in an armed robbery that happened Friday morning. At approximately  8:10  a.m. the Chattanooga Police Department responded to 5317 Highway 153 for a robbery at the Long John Silver's.  Officers discovered that two black men, wearing hoodies and masks, entered the Long John Silver's and forced the assistant manager ... (click for more)

Pair Charged With Beating Man With Stick, Taking His Wallet

Two men are charged with beating a man with a large stick while he slept on the steps of a downtown church, then taking his wallet. Jerry Quincy Allen, 45, and James Leo Boas, 40, both of 727 E. 11th St., are charged with aggravated robbery. In the incident on Wednesday, Bradley Casehart said he and a friend were asleep at Tompkin Chapel Church on Palmetto Street. He ... (click for more)

Please Don't Close The Piccadilly Cafeteria At Hamilton Place - And Response

Oh, no. The Piccadilly Cafeteria at Hamilton Place is closing.  Its last day is Christmas Eve.  I will miss the great food they have there but most of all I will miss their servers, cashiers and waitresses.  They are all so friendly and accommodating.  They make it like it’s a home-style restaurant. I sure wish there was some way that Hamilton Place and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Manger Scene Stays!

When the Freedom From Religion Foundation struck the tiny town of Jay, Fla., earlier this month, the town mayor had a life-sized Nativity scene that had been displayed every Christmas for the past 40 years taken down and sold as “city surplus.” But in Alabama, things are different. When the foundation tried the same thing in Rainbow City, Ala., more people than all those who live ... (click for more)