Vaccines target rabies in raccoons

Posted Aug. 26, 2009, at 9:14 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:43 a.m.

Beginning Friday, Aug. 28, wildlife workers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture will distribute approximately 100,000 oral rabies vaccination baits in Aroostook County to help prevent the spread of rabies in raccoons.

Workers will distribute the baits over a rural area of about 585 square miles, using trucks and a low-flying airplane. Inoculated baits are coated with fishmeal to attract animals. The baits may be packaged in 1-inch-square cubes or 2-inch plastic sachets. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the baits, but the baits should be left undisturbed if encountered.

Rabies, an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals, is normally transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms are present, although timely treatment can be effective in preventing death in humans.

Since 2003, Wildlife Services, a branch of the USDA, has been working to reduce the spread of rabies in wild animals in northern Maine and east into New Brunswick. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Agriculture are partners in the effort.

To help protect against rabies:

• Keep pets’ rabies vaccination current.

• Feed pets indoors.

• Do not feed, touch or adopt wild animals and be cautious of stray dogs and cats.

• Keep garbage cans or other sources of food tightly secured.

• Do not move raccoons or other wildlife from one area to another because this can spread rabies into new areas.

Dead or suspicious-acting raccoons, skunks, foxes or coyotes in northern Maine should be reported to the USDA Office of Wildlife Services in Augusta at 622-8263.

Anyone bitten or scratched by an animal should wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water, seek medical advice and contact the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention at 800-821-5821 to report the incident.

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