Oral Rabies Vaccine to be Distributed by USDA in Florida

Wildlife Services, a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, will distribute oral rabies vaccine baits across portions of west central Florida beginning on, or about Feb. 14, to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies.

Baits containing oral rabies vaccine will be distributed over rural areas using low-flying twin-engine aircraft and helicopters while hand baiting will occur in populated regions using ground-based vehicles. The projected four-week program will target raccoons and result in the distribution of approximately 540,000 baits covering roughly 2,950 square miles across six counties.

Since 2002, USDA has been cooperating with the Florida Departments of Health and Agriculture and Consumer Services, in addition to the counties of Hernando, Hillsborough, Lake, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sumter to vaccinate raccoons where this variant of rabies threatens wildlife populations and pets, as well as public health and safety.

Baits are made of fishmeal polymer and are packaged in one-inch square cubes surrounding a sachet containing the vaccine. 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 can experience an upset stomach, but there are no long-term health risks.

Raccoon rabies is caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system in mammals. Symptoms usually include unusual, aggressive or calm behavior, an inability to eat or drink, balance problems, circling, seizures, coma and finally death. Human exposures can be successfully treated if medical attention is sought immediately following a bite.

For additional information concerning the raccoon oral rabies vaccine program, please visit www.aphis.usda.gov/ws/rabies/index.html.

Read more information on rabies in horses.

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