Field Evaluation Continues into New Oral Rabies Vaccine for Wildlife

freeimages.com ( A raccoon in the wild.
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Source: USDA APHIS

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on Friday that it will continue field evaluation of an oral rabies vaccine (ORV) bait called ONRAB in five states. This year’s field evaluation is part of a multiyear study addressing operational questions related to bait density and effectiveness in raccoons, skunks, and other wildlife and is associated with a larger-scale rabies management effort in additional states.  

APHIS’ Wildlife Services (WS) leads the cooperative National Rabies Management Program that works to prevent the spread of rabies in wildlife. The program currently uses another rabies vaccine to control the disease in raccoons, coyotes, and foxes. The ONRAB vaccine is being tested to determine whether it can more effectively manage rabies in raccoons and skunks.

Beginning this month, WS will distribute more than 2.7 million ONRAB ORV baits in parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia to test the immune effects in targeted wildlife. WS personnel will sample raccoons and skunks both prior to and following bait distribution to determine vaccination rates.  

Field evaluation of ONRAB during 2019 is a collaborative effort among APHIS, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccine manufacturer (Artemis Technologies, Guelph, Ontario, Canada), and state departments of agriculture, health, and natural resources. Distribution of this ORV bait will span portions of: 
•    Clinton, Essex, Erie, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, Niagara, Oswego, and St. Lawrence counties in New York;  
•    Addison, Caledonia, Chittenden, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Orleans, Lamoille, and Washington counties in Vermont;  
•    Coos and Grafton counties in New Hampshire;  
•    Ashtabula, Belmont, Carroll, Columbiana, Geauga, Harrison, Jefferson, Mahoning, Monroe, Portage, Stark, Tuscarawas, and Trumbull counties in Ohio; and,  
•    Brooke, Barbour, Braxton, Doddridge, Greenbrier, Fayette, Hancock, Harrison, Lewis, Marshall, McDowell, Nicholas, Ohio, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Tyler, Upshur, Webster, Wetzel, and Wyoming counties in West Virginia.  

The ONRAB bait is a blister pack filled with the vaccine and coated with a sweet attractant. When an animal bites into one of the baits it will release the vaccine into their mouth and, with an adequate dose, develop immunity to rabies. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the bait, but are asked to leave the bait undisturbed if they encounter it. If contact with bait occurs, the contact area should be immediately rinsed with warm water and soap. Each bait carries a toll-free number that people can call if they have additional questions concerning a bait contact.  

Rabies is a serious public health concern. While rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, it is also 100% preventable. Human exposures can be successfully remedied if medical attention is sought immediately following exposure. Costs associated with detection, prevention and control of rabies exceed $600 million annually in the United States. According to the CDC, about 90% of reported rabies cases in the U.S. are in wildlife.   

For additional information concerning rabies or the ORV program, visit aphis.usda.gov/wildlife-damage/rabies


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