USDA works to eradicate rabies in area and prevent westward spread


USDA works to eradicate rabies in area and prevent westward spread

Officials in Northern New York and the eastern United States are working to control the strain of rabies found in raccoons, and to prevent its spread into the central states.This week and next, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in partnership with local Public Health Services, is delivering millions of rabies vaccinations by plane and car.Ashley Waite is the supervising public health nurse for Lewis County, and she has been working to spread word of the rabies bait drop.“We work to educate the public to let them know it’s happening so they aren’t wondering what they are,” she said. “We are charged with decreasing the rabies population in animals and preventing it from reaching the human population.”The bait is about the size of a matchbox and covered in fishmeal. This week, airplanes have been dropping them in the woods where animals like foxes, coyotes, skunks and raccoons will find them. The animals are attracted to the fishmeal, and as they eat it, they puncture the packet within containing the vaccine, thereby getting the vaccination orally. “If you find these vaccines, leave them alone so they can do what they are intended to do, unless it is in an area near pets or children. Then, pick it up using a paper towel or glove and throw it into the woods or into the trash,” Mrs. Waite said.If a pet does ingest the bait, fear not. Eating a few will not hurt your pet, aside from a potential upset stomach. If your pet ingests the bait, it is advised to avoid their saliva for 24 hours.Jeff Leiendecker, rabies control coordinator for Jefferson County, said he will be involved in the hand distribution of the bait next week to cover locations that couldn’t be reached by aircraft.The Jefferson County Public Health Services has been active in providing pet vaccinations in the area at no charge to the public (although $10 donations are encouraged). Upcoming rabies clinics include one in Cape Vincent on Aug. 14 and one in Deferiet on Aug. 16. However, pets are not the main concern.“This year, there has already been one rabid raccoon in Adams. In 2017, there were five rabid raccoons,” Mr. Leiendecker said. Although skunks have been a threat in the last two winters, the USDA is watching raccoons very closely, especially during summer months.“These are the busy months, by this time of year, there is more animal activity,” Mr. Leiendecker said. And more activity means more spread of disease. Betsy Haley, associate rabies field coordinator for the USDA, helps oversee the massive oral rabies vaccination program that spans from Maine to Alabama, and for good reason.“The raccoon strain of rabies started in Florida and spread up, but for some reason, it didn’t cross the Appalachian Mountains and make a westward push,” she said. “The Central States don’t have that raccoon variant of rabies, so we’re trying to keep the strain from moving West to save those states.”State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, granted $875,000 in additional rabies funding in 2016. Some of this money went to extending the bait drop zone across the Black River and into the southern border of Lewis County. The rabies bait is costly, at $1.28 to $1.40 each, but the containment of the raccoon rabies strain and the safety of citizens is so important, more than a million are still released in the area using five airplanes coming out of Plattsburgh. “We’re still dealing with exposures, enough that the state still has to mandate the threat,” Mr. Leiendecker said.If an animal appears to be acting strangely or rabid, the public health department will either test it themselves or have it sent to the USDA for testing.“It’s a matter of awareness to the public,” Mr. Leiendecker said. “Respect and admire wildlife from a distance, minimize attractants for wildlife to come near you, call us as soon as possible if you think an animal is rabid, and vaccinate pets, you have control over that, and for a low cost.”Both the Jefferson and Lewis County Departments of Public Health advise the public to be aware of the rabies bait being dropped. and know they are not a danger. For more information about the bait drop or vaccinating your pets, visit their Facebook pages to keep up with event postings @JCPHS or @lewiscountypublichealth.
Source: Watertown Daily Times Latest News
USDA works to eradicate rabies in area and prevent westward spread

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