Rabies vaccine to be dropped from planes in rural Vermont


MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Rabies vaccines will be dropped from low-flying planes in rural Vermont for a week to stop the spread of the disease in wild animals.

The annual rabies bait drop started Saturday and is a collaborative effort between the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. About 450,000 packs containing the vaccine will be distributed in nearly 100 Vermont communities in nine counties over a week. The sweet-smelling bait is attractive to raccoons and skunks, officials said.

“The rabies bait packs are not harmful to people, pets or wildlife but it’s important to leave the packs undisturbed so that they can be eaten by wild animals,” said Dr. Natalie Kwit, Vermont’s public health veterinarian. People are advised to use gloves or a plastic bag if a bait must be moved. If a pet eats a bait or a child brings one home, notify the Vermont Rabies Hotline at 1-800-4-RABIES (1-800-472-2437) or call the number on the bait, officials said.

Rabies, a deadly viral disease in the brain, is most often seen in raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, but unvaccinated pets and livestock are also susceptible. It’s primarily spread through the bite of an infected animal. If untreated, rabies is nearly always fatal in humans and animals but a rabies vaccine is nearly 100% effective if given soon after a person is bitten by a rabid animal, officials said.

Five animals in Vermont have tested positive for the disease so far this year, and three were raccoons.