With an the number of wild animals being found with rabies on the rise in Vermont's Chittenden County, federal and state wildlife officials are stepping up efforts to vaccinate them against the potentially deadly disease.
Nearly 40,000 doses of the oral rabies vaccine — sweet-smelling bait attractive to skunks and raccoons — will be dropped by low-flying helicopters and placed by workers in the country from Thursday through the end of next week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Vermont Department of Health announced. The bait packs aren't poisonous or harmful, but should be left alone to help prevent the outbreak from spreading.
A total of 28 animals have tested positive for rabies since March 2022, officials said, up from typically one or two in a year, and investigators are still working to learn why.
"We typically expect to see only one or two rabid animals in Chittenden County in a year, most commonly in bats," said Natalie Kwit, the public health veterinarian for the Vermont Health Department. "This bait drop will help prevent further spread of rabies among wildlife, protecting people and domestic animals who may come into contact with them."
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Usually, bait laced with the vaccine is dropped in August, but this spring's initiative is in addition to that. If a person brings home some of the bait or a pet eats one, officials urge people to call Vermont's rabies hotline at 1-800-4-RABIES.