The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, in cooperation with the Alabama Department of Health, will be distributing oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits for wildlife from low-flying aircraft in parts of northeastern and central Alabama this month. ORV baits have been distributed in Alabama since 2003 in partnership with state and local public health agencies as part of the USDA National Rabies Management Program. This effort seeks to prevent the westward movement of the rabies virus most often spread by raccoons by creating a barrier along the Appalachian Mountains from the Canadian border to Alabama.
The ORV baits will be distributed from low-flying airplanes beginning approximately October 11th, and is expected to last approximately 10 days. Targeted wildlife species eat the vaccine baits and become vaccinated for rabies. ORV baits will be distributed in rural areas of Bibb, Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, Chilton, Coosa, Cullman, DeKalb, Etowah, Jackson, Jefferson, Marshall, Morgan, Shelby, St. Clair, Talladega, and Tuscaloosa counties and near the cities of Albertville, Birmingham, Bridgeport, Collinsville, Fort Payne, Gadsden, Guntersville, Leesburg, and Scottsboro. Residents in these areas may see low-flying planes dropping the ORV baits. Approximately 700,000 baits will be distributed in Alabama during this program.
The vaccine distribution campaign in Alabama will use an ORV bait called RABORAL V-RG®. The vaccine is contained in ketchup-sized packets coated in fishmeal. The odor attracts targeted wild animals, such as raccoons, who eat the baits and are then vaccinated against rabies. The vaccine baits have been proven safe in more than 60 species of animals, including domestic dogs and cats. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the vaccine baits; however, if you or your pet find one, please leave it undisturbed. If a person has contact with a bait, immediately rinse the area with warm water and soap. If there has been exposure to the vaccine inside the bait, please contact the Alabama Department of Public Health at 1-877-722-6725. Do not attempt to remove a bait from an animal’s mouth, as you could be bitten. Ingesting the bait will not harm your pet. If your pet has eaten several baits, the pet may experience vomiting or diarrhea that is self-limiting. For photos of the vaccine baits and other aspects of the ORV project, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/sets/72157623983143606/
Rabies is caused by a virus that infects the central nervous system in mammals. While rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, it also is preventable. Human exposures can be successfully remedied if medical attention is sought immediately following exposure.
Wildlife and health officials are also asking residents to be alert and to report any dead raccoons (including those struck by vehicles) or live raccoons acting unusually ill, friendly and unafraid, or sick (staggering, unsteady or aggressive) to 1-866-4-USDAWS (1-866-487-3297), your local health department or animal control. Officials will remove the animal or carcass to test it for rabies.
Rabies symptoms include unusual, aggressive or calm and “friendly” behavior, an inability to eat or drink, balance problems, circling, seizures, coma and finally death. To prevent the spread of rabies, keep domestic pet and livestock vaccinations current and do not contact or feed wildlife. Never move or relocate wildlife, as this may spread rabies to new areas.
The cost of rabies detection, prevention and control exceeds $600 million annually in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90 percent of reported rabies cases in the U.S. are in wildlife.
For more information about the National Rabies Management Program, visit www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/wildlifedamage/programs/nrmp.