For Immediate Release: August 21, 2009
Media Contact: Communication Office
Vermont Department of Health
BURLINGTON – The 13th annual bait drop will begin on Aug. 28 with white, twin-engine aircraft flying over mapped grid lines at an altitude of 500 feet dropping small, ketchup-packet shaped, fishmeal-covered baits over rural areas in six Vermont counties. In more densely populated areas, baits will be placed by hand.
“The hand baiting started in the greater Burlington area this week and we have received a few calls from pet owners reporting their dogs have located one of the packets,” said Dr. Robert Johnson, state public health veterinarian with the Vermont Department of Health. “The baits are not harmful to children or pets, but you should keep dogs on a leash and leave them untouched.”
The bait drop program is designed to increase the level of rabies antibodies in the raccoon population. Animal rabies steadily spread northward during the spring and summer of 2006 despite efforts by wildlife officials in the United States and Canada to vaccinate those animals that serve as the primary vectors of the disease.
In response, health officials on both sides of the border worked cooperatively to initiate a trap, vaccinate, and release program. Seven United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials have already trapped, vaccinated and released 1,164 raccoons and 86 skunks this summer.
Vermont saw the number of raccoon rabies cases peak in 2007 (165), taper off to 75 cases in 2008, and slow to 37 cases to date in 2009. Only two cases of raccoon rabies have been detected in southern Quebec in 2009, from a high of 66 cases in 2007.
People are asked to avoid any animal that exhibits strange behavior. Do not try to trap or capture the animal themselves, but instead call the Vermont Rabies Hotline at 1-800-472-2437 (1-800-4-RABIES).
Rabies is a fatal, viral disease found mainly in wildlife (especially raccoons, foxes, bats and skunks), but can infect domestic animals and people. There has never been a human case of rabies reported to the Health Department. The virus can be contracted through the bite, or salivary contact with, an infected animal.
For more information on rabies prevention efforts visit the Health Department’s website: healthvermont.gov.