Michael F. Easley

The Great Seal of the State of North Carolina Dempsey Benton

North Carolina
Department of Health and Human Services

For Release: IMMEDIATE
Date: October 4, 2007

  Contact: Carol Schriber

N.C. Oral Rabies Vaccination Program begins Oct. 9

RALEIGH— In an effort to vaccinate wild raccoons against rabies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Agency, in cooperation with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services – Division of Public Health, will distribute rabies vaccine-laced bait packets by airplane and by hand in portions of seven western North Carolina counties in October. The vaccine will be distributed in portions of Buncombe, Haywood, Jackson, Madison, Mitchell, Swain and Yancey counties Oct. 9 through Oct. 12.

The raccoon rabies vaccine is contained in coated packets that look similar to ketchup packets from fast-food restaurants.  The packets are covered with a fishmeal and fish oil coating that makes them attractive to raccoons. In rural areas, the packets will be dropped from aircraft flying at approximately 500 feet altitude. High-density residential areas will be baited by hand from ground vehicles. 

The vaccine has been tested for safety on a variety of different animals, including dogs and cats, with no ill effects. If your pet does find one of the baits, do not attempt to get it away from them; simply remove any other baits you find in areas where children or pets may come in contact with them. Handle the baits with gloves or a towel as they have a strong fishy smell. Each bait is printed with a toll-free phone number if you have questions or concerns.

Although the baits do not pose a safety risk if eaten by pets, they are not intended for pets. To have your pet vaccinated against rabies, as required by law, please see your veterinarian.

The spread of deadly raccoon rabies has been associated with tremendous costs due to treating exposed and potentially exposed humans, pets and livestock. The raccoon strain of the rabies virus is currently found just along the East Coast; the bait drops are intended to prevent raccoons from carrying the virus westward. When completed, the “vaccine barrier” will run from eastern Ohio (beginning at the border with Lake Erie) down the Appalachian ridge (including Western North Carolina), to Alabama’s Mobile County, and end at the Gulf of Mexico.

Raccoon rabies has spread over most of North Carolina within the past decade. While raccoon rabies can infect virtually any mammal including humans, it is spread and maintained in the wild through raccoons. The ORV program has been successful in limiting the spread of raccoon rabies in other areas of the country. If the baiting program is successful in stopping the spread of rabies from eastern states westward, it may then be possible to address the disease in wildlife in the rest of North Carolina. 

Current programs by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, including pet vaccinations, public awareness programs, and post-exposure vaccinations, have helped prevent human deaths from rabies in the state in recent years. The Oral Rabies Vaccination (ORV) program works in conjunction with these ongoing efforts.

For more information on the ORV program, visit the USDA Wildlife Services Rabies Management Web site at www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/rabies/index.html and the N.C. DHHS website at www.epi.state.nc.us/epi/rabies/orv1.html.



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Debbie Crane