Maine CDC Press Release

August 24, 2011

Oral Rabies Vaccine Targets Aroostook County

Wildlife Services, 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 31 through September 3 in northeastern Maine. The distribution is part of ongoing cooperative rabies control efforts aimed at reducing raccoon rabies and is the ninth annual distribution of this vaccine.

In cooperation with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) and the Maine Department of Agriculture, 125,000 oral rabies vaccination (ORV) baits targeting raccoons will be distributed by air and ground methods over a 900-square mile area.

The area includes the northeast Aroostook County, including Caribou, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, Ashland and Mapleton. Vaccines will be distributed by air in rural areas. Personnel from Wildlife Services will distribute vaccine baits from vehicles in the more populated areas.

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. Today, 40 cases of animal rabies, including in a horse and sheep, have been identified in 11 out of the 16 Maine counties so far this year. No cases of animal rabies have been detected in Aroostook County to date in 2011, compared to three cases last year.

ORV baits are coated with fishmeal and are distributed in one-inch square cubes or two-inch plastic sachets. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the baits but should leave them undisturbed should they encounter them.

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.

If contact with baits occurs, immediately rinse the area affected with warm water and soap. For photos of ORV baits, please visit www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/oral_rabies/photo_gallery.shtml . Rabies is an infectious viral disease that infects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. It is normally transmitted through a 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 feed, touch, or adopt wild animals and be cautious of stray dogs and cats
  • Do not relocate wildlife 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 the website at: www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/oral_rabies/index.shtml or call 1–866–4–USDA–WS (1–866–487–3297).

The oral rabies vaccination distribution program is part of the National Rabies Management Program. The funds for this program are federally appropriated specifically to USDA Wildlife Services for rabies management.