AUGUSTA, Maine — Oral rabies vaccine baits are being distributed by air and land this week in Aroostook as part of an ongoing federal and state effort to control and reduce rabies in the raccoon population.
Oral vaccine baits are coated with fishmeal and are distributed in one-inch square cubes or two-inch plastic sachets, according to a press release issued late Monday afternoon by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Under the USDA’s Wildlife Services program, 125,000 of the oral vaccines will be dropped from the air in rural wooded areas or distributed from vehicles in more populated areas of northeast Aroostook County, including Caribou, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, Ashland and Mapleton.
Wildlife Services personnel are teaming up with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Agriculture Department to distribute the vaccines through Aug. 18 in northeastern Maine.
Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the vaccine baits but should leave them 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, according to the USDA.
Dogs that consume large numbers of baits may experience an upset stomach but there are no long-term health risks.
If contact with baits occurs, people should immediately rinse the area affected with warm water and soap, the USDA advises.
Rabies is an infectious viral disease that infects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. It is normally transmitted through a bite from an infected animal. The disease is almost always fatal once symptoms are present, although timely treatment is effective in preventing the disease in humans.
Since 2003, Wildlife Services personnel have been working to eliminate raccoon rabies from northern Maine because the virus poses a threat to human and animal health. So far this year, 25 cases of animal rabies have been diagnosed in 10 of Maine’s 16 counties in five types of animals: cat, cow, fox, raccoon, skunk and woodchuck. Animal rabies in Aroostook County was last reported in 2010.
Wildlife Services collaborates with Canadian officials in New Brunswick and Quebec to reduce the presence of rabies across northern Maine and Canada.