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Tennessee works with USDA, other southeast states on rabies vaccination distribution

The Tennessee Dept. of Health will work with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to prevent rabies in wild raccoons with the aerial distribution of oral vaccine packets along Tennessee’s borders with Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, beginning Oct. 3, 2022. 

“Controlling raccoon rabies keeps people, pets, and livestock safe,” said State Epidemiologist John Dunn, DVM, PhD. “We’re pleased to partner with USDA Wildlife Services in this program to reduce rabies in wildlife and protect the community.”

The USDA’s Wildlife Services will distribute the bait packets from low-flying aircraft and helicopter.

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When aircraft distribute oral rabies baits, a navigator controls the bait machine as necessary to avoid dropping bait packets on roadways or structures, or in large bodies of water. 

Each bait packet is marked with a toll-free number (1-877-722-6725) for assistance or information if someone finds, or comes in contact with a bait packet.

Although the vaccine and the bait packets are safe, the USDA Wildlife Services has issued these precautions for people and pets: 

•    Bait packets should be removed from where your pet could easily find and eat them. 
•    If you or your pet finds a bait packet, confine your pet and look for other baits in the area. Wear gloves or use a towel to toss the bait packet into a wooded or fencerow area. 
•    Do not try to remove a bait packet from your pet’s mouth, as you could be bitten.
•    If eaten, one bait packet won’t harm your pet, but consuming several might upset your pet’s stomach. 
•    The bait packets will have a strong, fishmeal smell. Even though there is no harm in touching undamaged bait packets, always wear gloves or use a towel whenever you pick up a bait packet. 
•    Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water if the bait packet has ruptured. 
•    Instruct children to leave bait packets alone. 
•    A warning label on each bait packet advises people not to touch the bait, and contains the rabies information line telephone number. 

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For more information on rabies prevention or the oral rabies vaccine program, call the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free rabies line at 1-866-487-3297 or call TDH at 1-615-741-7247. 

Rabies information is also available on the USDA website and on TDH’s website. 

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