The Commodity Credit Corporation has transferred $5.4 million to the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to help control rabies in wildlife. Officials hope to limit the disease by vaccinating raccoons, which serve as reservoirs of the disease and infect other wildlife, domestic animals, and humans. Raccoons that swallow an adequate dose of vaccine develop immunity to rabies and, as the number of vaccinated raccoons in the population increases, they act as a barrier to stop the spread of the disease to other wildlife, domestic animals, and humans.
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the annual cost associated with rabies in wildlife to exceed $300 million. Currently, the USDA is working with 15 states to distribute oral rabies vaccine baits: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia. Most of the fishmeal baits containing rabies vaccines are distributed by low-flying planes.
The additional funding will be used to contain a breach in the Cape Cod barrier and the Ohio barrier, address hot spots within existing barriers, complete the containment phase of the rabies management program, continue efforts to eliminate rabies in raccoons in Pennsylvania, and supplement state funding for rabies control in Texas.
APHIS established its wildlife rabies management team in 1998 to plan and coordinate rabies control activities with states.
For additional information concerning the rabies management program, contact USDA's wildlife services at (866) 487-3297.