On Monday, October 8th, the two-week endeavor to halt rabies in raccoons and other wildlife across North Georgia gets underway.

The operation will be based at the Dalton, Georgia airport and includes the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with a number of other agencies including the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

According to information from the USDA, helicopters will begin dropping the raccoon baits containing the vaccine in urban and residential areas on October 8th. The following week, beginning October 15th, fixed-wing aircraft will target rural areas of Dade and Catoosa Counties along with large parts of Whitfield, Walker, and Chattooga Counties and a small portion of Murray County.

The USDA says the project will also cover areas in Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina. The project will distribute more than 880,000 baits by helicopter and airplane.

From the USDA: "The RABORAL V-RG® vaccine is safe for more than 60 different species of animals, including domestic dogs and cats. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the baits but should leave them undisturbed if they encounter them. Dogs that consume large numbers of baits may experience an upset stomach, but no long-term health risks. If adults or children come in contact with baits, immediately rinse the contact area with warm water and soap. Rabies is caused by a virus that infects the central nervous system in mammals. Signs suggestive of rabies include unusual aggressive or calm and "friendly" behavior, an inability to eat or drink, balance problems, circling, seizures, coma and finally death. While rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, it also is preventable. Human exposures can be successfully remedied if medical attention is sought immediately after exposure. Over the past 30 years, rabies management has grown in complexity in the United States, as wild animals, including raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, and bats have replaced the domestic dog as the primary reservoir for the disease. The WS National Rabies Management Program was established in 1997 to prevent the further spread of wildlife rabies in the United States. Through the program, WS works with local, state and federal governments, universities and other partners to address this public health challenge by distributing oral rabies vaccination baits in targeted areas. Through the efforts of APHIS and partners across the United States, the program has achieved three significant accomplishments – the elimination of canine rabies; the near-elimination of gray fox rabies in Texas; and stopping the spread of raccoon rabies from the Eastern United States into new areas."

Anyone with questions, or in the event of human or pet contact with the bait/vaccine, can call the Northwest Georgia Department of Public Health at 706-295-6650 or the USDA/Wildlife Services at 706-546-5637.