USDA dispersed rabies vaccines for wildlife in 13 countries

By Janet McConaughey, Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The US Department of Agriculture has begun dropping millions of packages of oral rabies vaccine from helicopters and planes in more than 13 US states. who to me Alabama.

Field trial coordinator Gordonna Kirby said the main goal is to prevent raccoons from spreading their strain of the deadly virus to states where it has not been found or has not spread widely.

The USDA is also continuing testing of a vaccine approved in Canada for skunks as well as raccoons, said Kirby of the Wildlife Services, which is part of the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Rabies is spread through the saliva of an infected animal, usually through bites. However, saliva that gets into the eyes, nose, or mouth can also infect a person, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Thirteen people in South Carolina They were likely exposed in March because they were bottle-fed or given the drug to a sick calf who turned out to have rabies, said Dr. Michael Newlt, the state veterinarian.

Globally, the virus kills 60,000 people a year, most of them bitten by dogs, according to the World Health Organization.

That’s about the same number who get rabies shots in the United States after being bitten or scratched by an infected or potentially infected animal, according to the CDC.

State and local pet vaccination laws mean that the virus is mostly spread by wildlife in the United States

The National Rabies Control Program began in 1997 TexasAs the coyotes were spreading the canine type of virus, Kirby said.

Vaccine Drops eliminated that alternative in 2004, she said. Three years later, the CDC declared the nation free of rabies in dogs.

This does not mean that unvaccinated pets are safe. Rabies is among more than 20 different species — seven found in terrestrial mammals and more than 13 in bat species, said Rabies Program Coordinator Richard Chipman.

A bite from an infected animal of any kind can infect any other mammal. Scratches sometimes do this, because the animals lick their feet.

three-year programme Arizona And the New Mexico It eliminates the bat strain of rabies in foxes, Kirby said. And Texas, with help from the USDA, dropped 1.1 million baits along the Mexican border in January to prevent coyotes from reintroducing the canine species.

Raccoon is the main reservoir for rabies in 18 states along and near the East Coast and skunk in 21 other countries, according to data for 2020, the latest year available.

Bats made up 31% of the nearly 4,500 animals found to have rabies in 2020. But since all of the 40-plus bat species found in the United States eat insects and the rest drink nectar or eat fruit, oral vaccines will be more difficult.

Some scientists have speculated that bats could be pollinated while hibernating, perhaps with a fine mist or with a gel that could be transferred from bat to bat, Chipman said. Early research is testing the idea in vampire bats, which live in Mexico and Central and South America and might spread such a vaccine within a colony by preening one another.

Mad wildlife isn’t just a rural problem. A frenzied fox was arrested on Capitol Hill less than 24 hours after the first reporting in April. By then, half a dozen people had reported bites or bites to the US Capitol Police, but others may have gone to other agencies, a Capitol Police spokesperson said by email.

Raccoon rabies campaigns began in August in parts of northwestern Maine Pennsylvaniathe West Virginia and southwest Virginia. 348,000 Raboral V-RG grafts were dropped in Maine and 535,000 in the other three states from aircraft in rural areas and from vehicles in urban and suburban areas.

In all, about 3.75 million packages — covered in fishmeal attractant or coated in 1-inch (2.5 cm) fishmeal cubes — will be distributed in nine states, ending when 1.1 million are dropped in Alabama in October.

The vaccine has been found safe for more than 60 species of animals including pet dogs and cats. APHIS says that eating too many packets of vaccine may cause an upset stomach in dogs but won’t cause any lasting problem.

About 3.5 million doses of the experimental Onrab vaccine are being distributed in parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia And the Tennessee — which also gets the approved vaccine — as well as four other states.

Onrab comes in blister packs topped with green, marshmallow-flavored glaze. Wildlife Services hopes it will be approved next year despite ongoing delays related to the pandemic.

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