Wildlife Services, a program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, began distributing oral rabies vaccine on August 9 and will continue to do so through August 18 in northeastern Maine. The distribution is part of ongoing cooperative rabies control efforts aimed at reducing raccoon rabies and is the 15th annual distribution of this vaccine. 

Raccoon stealing swimmer's clothes (Sandra Friend/USDA)

In cooperation with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, approximately 125,000 oral rabies vaccination baits targeting raccoons will be distributed by air and ground methods over a 900-square mile area. The area includes central and southern Aroostook County, including Mars Hill, Oxbow, Monticello, Bridgewater and Houlton. Vaccines will be distributed by air in rural wooded areas. Personnel from Wildlife Services will distribute vaccine baits from vehicles in the more populated areas, like Houlton.

Maine.gov

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. So far this year, 43 cases of animal rabies have been diagnosed in 13 of Maine’s 16 counties in the following animals: raccoons, striped skunks, foxes, woodchucks and bats. Wildlife Services collaborates with Canadian officials in New Brunswick and Quebec to reduce the presence of rabies across northern Maine and Canada.

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.

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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 Wildlife Services at 1-866-487-3297 to report dead or suspicious-acting raccoons, skunks, fox, or coyotes in northern Maine.

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.

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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. 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.

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The ORV 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.

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