Rabies Vaccination Baits to be Distributed to Prevent Cape Cod Outbreak

Tim Dunn/CapeCod.Com

BOURNE – Following the third confirmed report of rabies in Wareham in less than a month, the Cape Cod Rabies Task Force and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services are distributing over 70,000 oral rabies vaccination baits to prevent an outbreak on the Cape.

The 72,000 oral rabies vaccinations (ORV) will be distributed throughout the mainland to prevent a reintroduction of raccoon rabies to Cape Cod.

This fall, the distribution will cover the towns of Plymouth, Wareham, mainland Bourne and Sandwich, and portions of Kingston, Carver, Middleboro, Rochester, and Marion.

Coordinator of Cape Cod Rabies Program and Biologist for the USDA Wildlife Services Brian Bjorkland says the baits will be “strategically placed in areas of high human and pet density, as well as in areas of relatively poor raccoon habitat.”

“We’ll be beginning on the mainland and then a week after we’ll be shifting our efforts to the Cape. Starting tomorrow we’ll be filling 49 bait stations. We’re putting these bait stations in areas where people are likely to come across the baits. It’s a better way to get the baits out without having the bait contacts with people and pets,” continued Bjorkland.

The task force warns the public to not touch the baits and to not allow pets to ingest them as well. Though rare, humans are prone to potentially harmful reactions to rabies vaccinations, while pets may become sick if they ingest multiple baits.

Bjorkland said that it’s best to report any contact with the baits to the Mass Department of Public Health.

“If people are to come across the baits we ask them to wash their hand with soap and hot water, to contact the phone number that’s listed on the baits, which will route you to the Mass Department of Public Health,” said Bjorkland.

“Largely, the baits are not harmful to people, but it’s good to report that to the Mass Department of Public Health.”

The ORV baits are fishmeal cube baits that hold the vaccination, placed in coated sachets inside of the fishmeal. The baits will be distributed throughout southeastern Massachusetts from September 14 through October 22.

Tim Dunn/CapeCod.com

Additionally, the Task Force says that almost 28,000 baits will be spread from the Cape Cod Canal throughout the western half of Barnstable. These baits will be placed in the effort to the boost wildlife rabies vaccination rates to prevent the reemergence of raccoon rabies over the Bourne and Sagamore Bridges.

Director of the Yarmouth Division of Natural Resources and Co-chair of the Cape Cod Rabies Task Force Karl Von Hone says that the first case of raccoon rabies showed up in Massachusetts in 1992, prompting the USDA Wildlife Services, the Cape Cod Rabies Task Force and Tufts University to respond with a baiting program in 1994.

“That baiting continued up until 2004 where unfortunately we had a bait barrier breach. Several raccoons tested positive in Bourne for rabies, hence being the first cases of rabies on Cape Cod. Unfortunately, within two years it had spread out to Provincetown,” Von Hone explained.

“In 2004 Cape Cod Bay froze for the first time in recollection for many people. They could’ve come across that way, as well as we routinely see wildlife crossing the bridges, the Sagamore and the Bourne Bridge, as well as the railroad bridge.”

Von Hone warns that the Cape’s transient seasonal population makes it especially important for year-round residents to keep rabies at bay.

“It’s very important that this disease is not running rampant because if a domestic animal does come in contact with a potentially rabid animal and they go home they could be bringing that disease to another part of the country or world,” Von Hone explained.

For more information about the distribution of ORV baits and to find out when they’ll be distributed in your town, follow the Cape Cod Rabies Task Force on Facebook, where information about the Cape Cod Oral Rabies Vaccination Program is updated regularly.

By TIM DUNN, CapeCod.com News Center

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