For Immediate Release: August 7, 2007
Media Contact: Communication Office
BURLINGTON – The 11th annual Rabies Bait Drop will begin today in an effort to slow a growing number of rabies cases that have spread through the northern part of Vermont and across the border into Quebec.
This time last year there were only 38 confirmed cases of rabies in Vermont, mostly in raccoons and skunks. So far in 2007, there have been 110 confirmed cases. Quebec, which had only two suspected cases in 2006, has already confirmed 41 cases of animal rabies.
“We have seen a higher number of rabies cases this year, particularly raccoon rabies,” said Dr. Robert Johnson, state veterinarian for the Vermont Department of Health. “The bait drop will be denser this year than in previous years based on our mapping of cases here in Vermont where we have seen clusters, such as the northwest corner of the state in Franklin County.”
The bait will be dropped from an altitude of 500 feet. The planes will fly uniform grid lines 0.3 miles apart and drop more than 400,000 fishmeal cakes at a rate of eight baits per second. As wildlife detect and then devour the bait - the animals are inoculated. A bait navigator stationed in the front of each of the three twin-engine Beachcraft aircraft will have the job of making sure the small wax casings containing oral vaccine do not land on any cars, houses, water or people.
The bait drop will be expanded this year to include communities in Clinton County, New York.
Anyone who finds the bait should leave it untouched, unless it is discovered on a lawn or driveway where it is unlikely to attract a raccoon. Remove the bait with a glove and wash your hands with soap and water.
The bait cannot cause rabies if it is touched or eaten and is not harmful to children or pets, but it does have an objectionable smell if it gets on your skin. No human cases of rabies have been reported in Vermont this year.
Since 1992, the USDA has offered a toll-free Rabies Hotline in Vermont. Keep a safe distance from wild animals and, if bitten, call 1-800-472-2437.