Dog vaccine

USDA drops vaccines from the sky to fight rabies

The US Department of Agriculture has launched its annual oral rabies vaccine distribution, a project that will continue through October. The project aims to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies from the eastern United States into the heartland, according to a USDA press release.

This year’s distribution began on August 6. If you’ve had your dog vaccinated against rabies, you probably remember taking him to the vet to get vaccinated. But these rabies vaccines are edible pellets coated in fishmeal to attract raccoons and other hungry critters.

In rural areas, the USDA will distribute the vaccines by air. In suburban and urban areas, they will arrive by helicopter or vehicle or be hand-delivered to designated “bait stations,” the statement said.

The August phase of the program focuses on Maine and West Virginia. About 348,000 vaccines will be distributed in northern Maine and 535,000 distributed in parts of western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and a small part of southwestern Virginia.

Then, from mid-September to mid-October, 70,000 vaccines will be distributed in parts of the Massachusetts peninsula.

Finally, in October, the southern states will receive their rabies vaccines. Parts of North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia will receive more than 880,000 vaccines; Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee will receive approximately 820,000 vaccines; and parts of Alabama will include 1.1 million vaccines.

The oral vaccine, also called RABORAL V-RG, has been shown to be safe in more than 60 animal species, according to the USDA. This includes domestic dogs and cats, so you don’t have to worry much about your beloved pet munching on one of the vaccines. Dogs that eat a lot of vaccines may have stomach problems, but they won’t have long-term health consequences, according to the USDA.

Rabies typically enters the human population through the bites of an infected animal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While all mammals can contract rabies, distinct strains are found in bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes and mongooses.