Helicopters, airplanes, and special bait packets will be employed next month in an effort to immunize wild raccoons with oral vaccine to stop the spread of the raccoon rabies variant through Georgia and into other states.
Beginning on Oct. 3, Wildlife Services will disperse approximately 88,000 coated sachet (CS) baits by helicopter in urban and residential areas. Fixed-wing aircraft operations will be used to distribute an additional 88,000 CS baits in rural areas, beginning Oct.
14, with completion expected the following week with good weather.
The target area for 2019 will include all of Dade and Catoosa counties, large portions of Chattooga, Walker, and Whitfield counties, and a small portion of Murray County.
The development of an effective barrier usually requires several years of annual bait distributions and increased monitoring and surveillance. The vaccine in these baits cannot cause rabies and has been shown to be safe in more than 60 different species of animals, including cats and dogs.
The GAT project – to be conducted simultaneously in portions of Tennessee and Alabama - is being implemented by several agencies, including the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services, Wildlife Services, Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The oral rabies vaccination baits currently being used in the United States are developed and manufactured by Merial, Inc. and consist of a sachet, or plastic packet containing the Raboral V-RG rabies vaccine. To make the baits attractive, the sachets containing vaccine are sprinkled with fishmeal coating or encased inside hard fishmeal polymer baits about the size of a matchbox.
When an animal finds a bait and bites into it, the sachet ruptures, allowing the animal to swallow the vaccine. Animals that swallow an adequate dose of the vaccine develop immunity to rabies. As the number of vaccinated animals in the population increases, they act as a buffer to stop the spread of the disease to other wildlife, domestic animals, and people.
If you see any of the oral rabies vaccination baits, you are asked to please leave them alone unless they are on your lawn, driveway, or some other area not likely to attract a raccoon. While wearing a glove or other protective covering (plastic bag or paper towel), you can move the bait to an area of thicker cover, where a raccoon will be more likely to find it.
If you should pick up a bait without wearing a glove, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Also, do not handle partially eaten or damaged baits with bare hands. Damaged baits should be placed in a bag and disposed of with normal trash. Do not attempt to remove a bait from a pet’s mouth, especially a dog’s mouth as doing so might cause you to be bitten.
For more information about the program, visit the National Rabies Management Program web site at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/wildlifedamage/programs/nrmp. Or call the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services toll-free number, 866-4-USDA-WS.