USDA officials spreading wildlife rabies vaccinations

More than 350,000 rabies vaccinations are being distributed throughout Wise, Lee, and Scott Counties this week. (K. Roberts, WCYB)

Officials with the Department of Agriculture are preventing the spread of rabies in the region through a wildlife vaccination program.

Aircrafts will drop 350,000 oral vaccination packets throughout Wise, Lee, and Scott Counties this week. The rabies packets are covered in fish meal and oil intended to bait in raccoon sand other wildlife susceptible to carrying the disease.

The program, which has been implemented all across the eastern United States, was started in our region after two rabid raccoons were discovered in Wise County last year.

USDA officials said they keep the program in place typically three years after rabid animals are found in the area to keep rabies cases from spreading west.

"It's the standard. It gives enough time for the raccoons to get a built up tider to rabies and hopefully the barrier we need to prevent the spread," Betsy Haley said. Haley is the assistant rabies field coordinator.

Officials say if you find a packet, don't move it if possible. If necessary, they ask you to use gloves or use a towel to keep from contact with the vaccine. The packets are also not harmful to pets, but officials do not encourage allowing pets to eat them due to the oils.

USDA officials ask if people see an animal that is acting strangely to call their office.

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