In 13 states spanning from Alabama to Maine, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is distributing roughly 4 million packets of oral rabies vaccines from helicopters, planes, and automobiles.
According to The Associated Press, the aim is to stop raccoons from transmitting their particular type of rabies to states where it hasn’t been discovered or isn’t common. In order to immunise skunks and raccoons, the USDA is also investigating a different vaccine that has been licenced in Canada.
The disease naturally exists and reproduces among these mammals along and near the East Coast in 18 states where raccoons are the primary rabies reservoir, and in 21 additional states where skunks are the primary reservoir. Additionally, according to the AP, 31% of the approximately 4,500 animals with rabies in 2020 were bats.
In some areas of northern Maine, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and southwestern Virginia, the raccoon rabies vaccination campaign got underway in August. When around 1 million immunizations are distributed in Alabama, the campaign will come to an end in October. The fishmeal-coated oral packages are being dropped from aircraft in rural areas and from moving vehicles in urban and suburban areas.
Following the bottle-feeding or medication administration to a sick calf that later tested positive for rabies in South Carolina in March, the AP reported that 13 persons were thought to have potentially exposed.
According to the CDC, five Americans died from rabies last year, which was the highest number since 2011. One individual was bitten by a dog while vacationing in the Philippines before returning to the U.S., and four of the deaths were caused by encounters with bats. Some of the individuals who came into touch with bats were unaware that they had been bitten and infected, and some people declined vaccinations.
The virus that causes rabies attacks the central nervous system and usually results in death as soon as symptoms appear. The virus is typically transmitted through bites through the saliva of an infected animal. However, the CDC notes that exposure to saliva in the mouth, nose, or eyes can also result in human infection.
The majority of illnesses in the United States in recent years have been linked to bat encounters, usually connected to catching bats in or near dwellings. According to the CDC, bat bites don’t usually leave a visible mark, and bats can still transmit rabies through saliva that has been contaminated. A doctor should be consulted after any direct contact with a bat, especially if the person handles the bat with their bare hands.
According to the CDC, rabies is almost usually lethal once symptoms start to manifest three weeks to three months after exposure.
Death can happen a few weeks after symptoms appear, but it can also be avoided by administering five doses within two weeks of exposure.