Maine CDC Press Release

July 26, 2019

USDA Distributes Oral Rabies Vaccine for Wildlife in Northeast Maine

AUGUSTA –Oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits will be distributed in northeastern Maine beginning on or about August 3 through August 7 as part of ongoing, cooperative rabies control efforts aimed at reducing the incidence of raccoon rabies.

The distribution of ORV baits has occurred annually since 2003.

Wildlife Services, a program within the U.S Department of Agriculture's Plant Health Inspection Service, will distribute the ORV baits in cooperation with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. Approximately 351,000 ORV baits targeting raccoons will be distributed by air and ground over a 2,405-square-mile area. The eastern portion of the area will include Mars Hill and Houlton and reach as far south as Weston; the area will extend west covering areas including Oxbow, Patten, and Stacyville.

The vaccine packets will be distributed by airplanes in rural, wooded areas. Personnel from Wildlife Services will distribute vaccine baits from vehicles in the more populated areas.

Since 2003, Wildlife Services has worked to eliminate raccoon rabies from northern Maine because the virus poses a threat to human and animal health. Wildlife Services also collaborates with Canadian officials in New Brunswick and Quebec to reduce the presence of rabies across Maine and Canada.

As of July 23, 2019, 49 animals have tested positive for rabies this year in 12 of Maine's 16 counties, including bats, raccoons, striped skunks, gray foxes, and red foxes. Occasional animal rabies cases have occurred in southeastern parts of Aroostook County in the last several years.

Rabies is a viral disease that infects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. It is transmitted primarily through a bite from an infected animal. Rabies is 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:

  • 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 Wildlife Services at 1-866-487-3297 to report dead or suspicious-acting raccoons, skunks, foxes, or coyotes in northern Maine. Or call Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821 for concerns about rabies anywhere in Maine.

ORV baits are coated with fishmeal and 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.

This vaccine has been shown to be safe in more than 60 species of animals, including domestic dogs and cats. Dogs that consume large numbers of baits may experience an upset stomach, but there are no known 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.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/sets/72157623983143606/.

If you are bitten or scratched by an animal, wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and contact your health care provider and Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821.

Costs associated with detection, prevention and control of rabies exceed $300 million annually in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 90 percent of reported rabies cases in the U.S. occur in wildlife. As part of the Wildlife Services' National Rabies Management Program, the ORV distribution program in Maine is part of a larger effort to prevent the westward spread of raccoon rabies by creating a barrier along the Appalachian Mountains from the Canadian border to Alabama.

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