County’s rabies fight takes flight

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

At Tuesday’s meeting, Perry County Commissioners also received news from assistant EMA director Dennis Greenawalt concerning the dropping of oral rabies vaccinations for areas highly populated by raccoons, including Perry County.

“In early April we will begin orally vaccinating raccoons for rabies. The baits will be dropped from an aircraft into regions with high raccoon populations,” Greenawalt said. One bait will resemble a ketchup packet covered in brown fishmeal while the other will look like an ice cube covered in fishmeal, but both are labeled “Rabies vaccine. Do not disturb.”

“Our goal remains stopping the spread of the raccoon rabies variant,” said Dr. Mel Stephens, state public health veterinarian. “Vaccine-laced baits are protective against rabies when raccoons eat them. The public should never feed raccoons because this encourages the raccoons to come into closer contact with pets and people. Dogs and cats in Alabama are required to be immunized for rabies annually.”

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The public is asked to leave the baits undisturbed and not to call the number on the baits to request more.

If the baits are dropped in an area where children and pets play, Greenawalt said, throw it into a fencerow, wooded lot or ditch, but only if it is still in tact.

“Damaged baits should be placed in a bag and thrown away,” he added, “wear gloves when doing this and be sure to wash your hands.”

Although the people and pets cannot get rabies from coming in contact with the baits, vomiting and diarrhea can occur in a pet if it consumes several of them.

Vaccine drops have been used successfully in Alabama since November 2003. Since 1989 millions of baits have been distributed in the U.S. and Canada without any major problems.

Persons having questions about bait they have found should call the toll-free numbers found on the baits or 1-800-677-0939.