Planes are currently being used to distribute rabies vaccines in North Carolina and several other states in an effort to control the spread of the disease. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have collaborated on this annual vaccination campaign.
The primary goal of this campaign is to prevent the spread of rabies through wild animal populations in western North Carolina. By distributing oral vaccine tablets through bait dropped from planes in rural areas and using helicopters, bat stations, and other vehicles in urban areas, officials aim to vaccinate as many animals as possible.
NCDHHS Deputy State Public Health Veterinarian, Erica Berle, emphasized the importance of preventing rabies through contact avoidance with wild animals and the vaccination of pets. She stated that implementing wildlife rabies vaccination programs not only prevents the spread of rabies in wild animals but also reduces the risk of transmission to pets, humans, and other animals.
The vaccine bait is designed to attract raccoons, one of the primary carriers of rabies, by coating the packets with fish flesh. When raccoons bite into the bait, the vaccine packet is punctured, and the animal is exposed to the vaccine. This stimulates the raccoon’s immune system to produce antibodies, providing protection against rabies infection.
The distribution of vaccines began in early October across several counties in North Carolina, including Alleghany, Ashe, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Madison, Macon, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Wilkes, and Yancey. Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Virginia are also part of the vaccination campaign.
Although the vaccine bait is generally safe, precautions should be taken when handling it. The NCDHHS advises individuals to wash their hands thoroughly after touching the vaccines and to contact the provided phone number if they come into direct contact with the bait. It is also recommended to wear gloves when removing bait from lawns or driveways. In the event that a pet swallows the vaccine, it is best not to attempt to remove it to avoid getting bitten, as vaccines are safe for animals. However, consuming excessive amounts may lead to an upset stomach.
In order to ensure public safety, especially for children, it is important to educate them not to touch the bait and to immediately call 1-866-4-USDA-WS if they accidentally consume the vaccine.
Rabies is classified as a deadly but preventable viral disease by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is commonly found in wild mammals such as raccoons, bats, foxes, and skunks. In North Carolina, the law requires all cats, dogs, and ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies starting at four months of age and to receive annual vaccinations throughout their lives.
Rabies is transmitted through direct contact with an infected animal’s saliva, typically through a bite. If someone is bitten by a wild or unfamiliar animal, it is recommended they seek medical attention promptly.
Q: Why are planes used to distribute rabies vaccines?
A: Using planes allows for wide distribution of the vaccines in rural areas, while helicopters, bat stations, and other vehicles are used in urban areas.
Q: How does the vaccine bait work?
A: The vaccine packet is coated with fish flesh to attract raccoons. When the raccoon bites into the bait, the vaccine packet is punctured, exposing the animal to the vaccine.
Q: What should I do if I come into contact with the vaccine or bait?
A: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water if you touch the vaccine. If you need to remove bait from your lawn or driveway, it is recommended to wear gloves.
Q: Is it safe for pets to swallow the vaccine?
A: Yes, the vaccines are safe for animals. However, it is best not to attempt to remove the vaccine if your pet swallows it to avoid getting bitten.
Q: What should I do if my child accidentally consumes the vaccine?
A: Immediately call 1-866-4-USDA-WS if your child eats the vaccine bait.
It is expected that the vaccine distribution will be completed by the end of October. The U.S. government typically spends approximately $500 million annually on rabies detection, prevention, and control efforts.
Overall, the use of planes and other methods of vaccine distribution is crucial in preventing the spread of rabies and protecting both humans and pets from this deadly disease.