Preventing rabies with airdropped vaccines

By Matthew Sylvester, Special to the Record

Thousands of small bait packets will be airdropped over the southern rural Montérégie region by low flying planes this weekend in an effort to fight rabies in wild animals. On Aug. 7 and 8, 175,000 vaccine filled treats will be spread over 32 different municipalities and an area of 1,400 square kilometres.
The bait, which will look like either a small ketchup packet or green ravioli, will contain a plastic sachet inside designed to break when the treat is bitten into. The sachet is filled with a vaccination fluid that will immunize whatever small animal is eating it. The vaccine is designed to work in raccoons, skunks, chipmunks, and other rodents.
The operation is part of the provincial government’s larger Raccoon Rabies Prevention Plan, which has been in place since the first reported case of raccoon rabies in Québec in 2006. The program has all but eliminated raccoon rabies in the populated areas of southern Québec. There hasn’t been a single case in the region since 2015, and cases of rabies in other small mammals have also been on a steady decline.
The Ministry of Flora, Fauna and Parks is the government body organizing the operation, and they say that the treats are designed to smell sweet in order to attract wild animals but will be coloured green so that they’re hard for people to spot in the woods. People in the drop zone should be especially careful if out walking their dog.
Most of the bait should be dropped in the forest and away from people, but some will end up in residential areas where animals like skunks and raccoons will find them. It’s recommended that you throw the bait into the garbage in a sealed leak proof container if you find one.
Although the Ministry says the vaccines aren’t dangerous to humans or pets, it says that any pets who bite into or ingest a packet should be taken to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Since the vaccine isn’t formulated to work on dogs or cats, the Ministry claims it probably won’t do anything to immunize them. “It is very important to note that you cannot take for granted that your pet is immunized from rabies even if it has consumed a vaccine bait,” it said. If a person comes into contact with one, they recommend washing your hands with soap and water and calling the number on the back or Info Santé at 811.
Rabies is a virus that’s transmitted through the bite of an infected animal. Because of this, according to Santé Montréal, you should never go near any wild animal that you aren’t familiar with. The proper care for a wild animal bite is to wash it well with soap and water for 15 minutes before calling 811.

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