State’s raccoon vaccination program underway

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Raccoons in parts of East and Middle Tennessee will be vaccinated for rabies under a U.S. Agriculture Department program.

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says the Agriculture Department will distribute an oral vaccine for selected counties. The vaccine is placed inside a fishmeal block or coated with fishmeal known to attract raccoons and placed in suitable habitat.

Residents should leave the bait alone and instruct children to do the same, but if found where children or pets play, wear gloves and move the bait to a suitable habitat. If a pet consumes the bait, confine the animal and avoid the pet’s saliva for 24 hours, washing any skin that has been licked.

The state says ground crews and aircraft will distribute the vaccine.

Note: The Department of Health news release, including a listing of the counties involved, is below.

News release from state Department of Health:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Health is working with the United States Department of Agriculture to help prevent rabies by distributing oral rabies vaccine for wild raccoons along Tennessee’s borders with Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. The annual baiting program administered by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, will begin in Tennessee September 25, 2015.

“Control of raccoon rabies is vital to public health. We are pleased to be part of this important and effective program to reduce rabies in wildlife, which helps prevent transmission to people, pets and livestock,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH.

Vaccine packets placed inside fishmeal blocks or coated with fishmeal will be distributed throughout a 20-county area in Tennessee. The 2014 bait zone was expanded in response to raccoon variant rabies cases in southern states bordering Tennessee. While there have been no additional raccoon variant rabies cases in that southern border area since 2014, the baiting area is still expanded for the 2015 program. Therefore, in addition to the normal target area which include portions of Bradley, Hamilton, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Polk, Carter, Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties, for the second year baiting will take place in portions of Grundy, Franklin, Lincoln, Marion, Moore and Sequatchie counties. Baits will be distributed by fixed wing and rotary wing aircraft.

The oral rabies vaccine will be distributed on the following schedule:
• September 25 – October 8: Carter, Cocke, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties
• September 28 – October 20: Bradley, Franklin, Grundy, Hamilton, Lincoln, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Moore, Polk and Sequatchie counties

“Rabies is most common in wild animals in Tennessee, and it poses a risk to people and domestic animals that come into contact with wildlife,” said Deputy State Epidemiologist John Dunn, DVM, PhD. “It’s important for pet owners to make sure rabies vaccinations are current for dogs and cats to ensure their health and safety, and help provide a barrier between rabies in wild animals and humans. It is also extremely important that people don’t transport raccoons from one area of the state to another.”

Rabies, once disease develops, is almost universally fatal. However, it is completely preventable if vaccine is provided prior to or soon after exposure.