Crews to drop rabies vaccine packets in Northwest Georgia - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Crews to drop rabies vaccine packets in Northwest Georgia

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WALKER COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -

The U.S Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services are continuing their efforts to stop the spread of rabies.

In Northwest Georgia, 17 animals tested positive for rabies in Northwest Georgia, compared to last year's count of 23. 

The USDA will drop 1.2 million rabies vaccine baits throughout Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia this month. This week vaccines were dropped in the rural parts of Chattanooga. On Thursday, crews will focus on five counties in Northwest Georgia. Their coverage will include all of Dade and Catoosa Counties, large portions of Chattooga, Walker and Whitfield Counties and a small portion of Murray County. 

Rabies Field Coordinator, Jordana Kirby, says helicopters will be used to drop the vaccines in rural areas, whereas airplanes will be used to drop vaccines in urban areas. 

"It gives us the ability to better target wooded habitat in areas where you've got backyards and woodlines were as in rural areas where it's mostly forested area we are going to be flying in airplanes at a low altitude," said Kirby. 

Kirby says wild animals are the number one source of rabies in the U.S., especially raccoons. 

"If wild animals are in the area, usually between three and seven days after distribution they will pick up those baits and a lot of times they'll carry them off into the woods," Kirby. 

The baits look like ketchup packets, but are covered with fishmeal and oil; inside is where the vaccine is stored. When an animal bites the bait, the vaccine packet the vaccine gets into the animal's mouth. Their immune system is then tricked into thinking it has been exposed to the rabies virus and makes antibodies to fight the disease. The "blueprint" on how to make these antibodies is then stored in the raccoon's immune system, allowing its body to respond quickly should it be exposed to a rabid animal.

Kirby says the bait is not dangerous, but if you have to move it use a napkin or wear gloves. While wearing gloves you may also place the bait in a bag and dispose of it with your regular trash because the bait will no longer be effective. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with a bait.

Kirby says the bait will not harm pets. However, pet owners are encouraged to keep their dogs and cats inside or on leashes so wild animals can eat the baits. 

"It's actually best for them to allow their dog to just eat the bait or chew on it because one thing we have observed is that when people try to get the bait out of their dogs mouth, it's at that point that they might have the possibility of getting bit by their dog or actually get vaccine on their hands," said Kirby.

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