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USDA DISTRIBUTES ORAL RABIES VACCINE ACROSS APPALACHIAN STATES

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Brienne German (301) 734-7253
Andrea McNally (202) 690-4178

WASHINGTON, Aug. 24, 2007--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will distribute oral rabies vaccine baits beginning on or about Aug. 23 to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies in portions of West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania.

In cooperation with state departments of agriculture, health and key agencies, baits containing oral rabies vaccine will be distributed over rural areas using low-flying twin-engine aircraft. Hand baiting will occur in populated regions using ground-based vehicles. The projected one-week program will target raccoons and distribute approximately 1.5 million baits covering roughly 9,500 total square miles in two states.

Since 1997, APHIS has been working to establish a rabies-free barrier in the eastern United States where the raccoon variant of rabies threatens wildlife populations and pets, as well as public health and safety. APHIS has coordinated a cooperative effort in the following states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia.

Baits are coated with a fishmeal attractant and could be packaged in one-inch square cubes or two-inch plastic sachets. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from coming into contact with the baits but are asked to leave the baits undisturbed should they encounter them. This vaccine has been shown to be safe in more than 60 different species of animals, including domestic dogs and cats. Dogs that consume large numbers of baits may experience an upset stomach, but there are no long-term health risks.

Most sightings of rabid raccoons occur during the spring and summer when people are more likely to come into contact with wildlife. Raccoon rabies is caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system in mammals. Signs of illness in animals include unusual, aggressive or calm and “friendly” behavior, an inability to eat or drink, balance problems, circling, seizures, coma and finally death. Human exposures can be successfully treated, if treatment is sought immediately following a bite.

For additional information concerning the raccoon oral rabies vaccine program, please visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/rabies.shtml or contact USDA's wildlife services toll free at 1-866-4-USDA-WS (1-866-487-3297).

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