Rabies Bait Distribution to Begin This Week on Cape Cod

HYANNIS – Efforts to keep raccoon rabies off Cape Cod continue as the spring baiting program begins this week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and the Cape Cod Rabies Task Force will begin distributing oral rabies vaccine in bait stations and by hand west of the Cape Cod Canal in Plymouth, Kingston, Carver, Middleboro, Rochester, Marion, Wareham and mainland Bourne and Sandwich.

Several organizations will work to distribute the vaccinations in 48 bait stations west of the canal and by hand in wooded areas along roadways.

The following week, bait stations will begin to be filled west of the Cape Cod Canal from Bourne through Barnstable.

The Oral Rabies Vaccine Program has been successful, according to coordinator of the Cape Cod Rabies Program Brian Bjorklund.

“Over the past five years we have not had a single documented case of raccoon variant rabies east of the Cape Cod Canal,” Bjorklund said.

The first case of raccoon rabies was discovered on Cape Cod in 2004 and quickly spread all the way to Provincetown by 2006.

There has not been a case of raccoon rabies east of Yarmouth since 2008 and there has not been a positive case on the Cape since 2013, in Hyannis.

The baiting continues to move west as it stretched into West Yarmouth last fall.

Anyone that finds a rabies vaccine or bait package is asked to use a glove or towel to pick it up and toss it into the woods where children and pets can’t get to it. If there is no suitable wooded area to put the bait, it should be disposed of in the trash.

“The baits are not harmful to people or pets, generally,” Bjorklund said. “If a pet were to consume a bait, the worst that we’ve seen is an upset stomach from the richness and fattiness of the fishmeal coating.”

Hands should be washed thoroughly after a bait is handled.

If a pet has eaten or had contact with a bait is should be reported to the Department of Public Health at 617-983-6800. The reported information is used to let those who distributing the baits know that the baits may have not reached their targeted area.

Although it has been five years without a case of raccoon variant rabies on Cape Cod there are still instances of bat variant rabies.

“It occurs pretty much worldwide,” Bjorklund said. “There is currently no effective way to vaccinate populations of bats, but there are researchers and scientists who are looking into that and trying to figure out how to effectively vaccinate those populations as well.”

There was a documented case of bat rabies in Harwich a few years ago.

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