Maine CDC Press Release

August 20, 2010

USDA Distributes Oral Rabies Vaccine in Aroostook County, Maine

Augusta, Maine - Wildlife Services (WS), a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, will distribute oral rabies vaccine baits beginning on or about August 23 through August 26 in northeastern Maine as part of ongoing cooperative rabies control efforts aimed at reducing raccoon rabies. This is the 8th annual distribution of this vaccine.

In cooperation with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources, 125,000 oral rabies vaccination (ORV) baits targeting raccoons will be distributed by aerial and ground methods over a 900 square mile area. The area includes northeast Aroostook County including the towns of Caribou, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, Ashland, Mapleton, and others. Vaccines will be distributed by air in rural areas. Personnel from WS will be distributing vaccine baits from vehicles in the populated areas of Caribou, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, and Ashland.

Since 2003, Wildlife Services has been working to eliminate raccoon rabies from northern Maine because the virus poses a threat to human and animal health. WS continues cooperating with New Brunswick and Quebec, Canada officials in an effort to reduce the presence of rabies across northern Maine and Canada. Three cases of animal rabies have been detected in Aroostook County to date in 2010. No new cases of terrestrial rabies have been documented in New Brunswick since 2002 or in Quebec during 2010. This program is part of the National Rabies Management Program and is designed to prevent the further spread of wildlife rabies. The funds for this program are federally appropriated specifically to USDA WS for rabies management.

ORV baits are coated with a fishmeal attractant and may be packaged in one-inch square cubes or two-inch plastic sachets. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the baits, but are asked to leave them undisturbed should they encounter them. If you should come into contact with ORV baits immediately rinse the contact area with warm water and soap. 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 may experience an upset stomach, but there are no long-term health risks. For photos of ORV baits, please visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlifedamage/oralrabies/photo_gallery.shtml.

Rabies, an infectious viral disease that infects the nervous system of humans and other mammals, is normally transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms are present although timely post-exposure treatment is effective in preventing the disease in humans.

To help protect yourself and your pet against rabies, you should:

  • keep your pet’s rabies vaccination current
  • feed pets indoors
  • keep garbage cans or other sources of food tightly secured
  • do not to feed, touch, or adopt wild animals and be cautious of stray dogs and cats
  • do not move raccoons or other wildlife from one area to another because this can spread rabies into new areas

Contact the Wildlife Services at 1–866–487–3297 to report dead or suspicious-acting raccoons, skunks, fox or coyotes in Northern Maine. If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and contact your health care provider and the Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821 for advice. For additional information concerning the raccoon oral rabies vaccine program, please visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlifedamage/oralrabies/index.shtml or contact WS toll free at 1–866–4–USDA–WS (1–866–487–3297).