Annual Wildlife Oral Rabies Vaccination Program Begins Next Week, Helps Protect North Carolinians and Their Pets
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help prevent the spread of rabies. Starting next week, Wildlife Services will be distributing oral rabies vaccine for wild raccoons in Western North Carolina.
Beginning Oct. 6, 2022, baits containing the oral rabies vaccine will be aerially distributed in Alleghany, Ashe, Buncombe, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Madison, Macon, Mitchell, Swain, Transylvania, Wilkes and Yancey Counties.
"The best way to prevent rabies is to avoid contact with wild animals and to vaccinate domestic animals against rabies," said NCDHHS Deputy State Public Health Veterinarian Erica Berl, DVM, MPH. "This important program helps us prevent the spread of rabies among wild animals, which also prevents wildlife spreading rabies to people and their pets and other animals."
The baits consist of a sachet, or plastic packet, containing the oral rabies vaccine. To make the baits attractive to raccoons, the packets are sprinkled with a fishmeal coating or encased inside hard fishmeal–polymer blocks about the size of a matchbox. When a raccoon bites into a bait, the vaccine packet is punctured, and the animal is exposed to the vaccine. This activates the animal’s immune system to produce antibodies that provide protection against rabies infection.
Anyone who comes in contact with the liquid vaccine should wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and call the phone number listed on the bait for further instructions and referral.
Although the oral rabies vaccine products are safe, the USDA Wildlife Services program has issued these precautions:
For more information on rabies prevention or the oral rabies vaccine program, call the USDA Wildlife Services toll-free rabies line at 1-866-487-3297 or the NCDHHS Division of Public Health at 919-733-3419.
Baiting should be completed by mid-October. The Oral Rabies Vaccination program, originally implemented in the 1990s. helps prevent the raccoon rabies epizootic from moving west of the Appalachian Mountains, where raccoon rabies does not exist. The program has been successful in that regard and the vision is to gradually move the vaccine barrier east until raccoon rabies is eliminated.
In addition to the initiation of the ORV program, Sept. 28 is celebrated as World Rabies Day. This day marks the anniversary of the death of Louis Pasteur, who developed the first vaccines against rabies, among many other advancements.
You can also find information on the USDA website at
For general information on rabies, please see www.cdc.gov/rabies/index.html.