Raccoon Rabies Vaccination To Continue In Capital Region
Albany, Sept. 26 --- The third wave of an experimental assault on wildlife rabies in the Capital District is underway.
The State Health Department, in cooperation with the State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), this week is distributing an additional 45,000 doses of oral raccoon rabies vaccine in southern sections of Albany and Rensselaer counties. Researchers are continuing a study designed to test whether oral vaccination can reduce the incidence of rabies in wildlife in an area where the disease is already well established. They also wish to determine if their initial, favorable results can be replicated by using a smaller number of baits.
A total of 60,000 fish-meal biscuits containing a genetically-altered vaccine were first distributed in the Capital District study sites in October 1994, followed by a second bait distribution last April in the same locations.
For the current study, bait is again being placed along roadsides and other spots that can be reached either by motor vehicle or on foot. However, in less accessible areas, such as railroad right-of-ways and along the Hudson River, a DEC helicopter will be used to drop bait. Aerial distribution also will take place along the Thruway (south of Albany, and on the Berkshire spur); in the Curtis Mountain area west of Stephentown in Rensselaer County; and the Louis Kerr Wildlife Management Area in the town of Coeymans, Albany County.
Previous oral vaccination experiments in the Capital District have proved promising. After the first two bait distributions, researchers live-trapped and tested raccoons for the presence of rabies antibodies. More than 45 percent of the raccoons tested were immune to the disease.
Since the study began, only one case of raccoon rabies has occurred in each of the Albany and Rensselaer County vaccination sites. Both cases were discovered near the boundary of the vaccination zones. In the unbaited (control) areas of the counties, the incidence of rabies was much higher: a total of 16 rabid raccoons were confirmed in Albany County and 30 others were confirmed in Rensselaer County.
Health Department officials said the oral vaccine presents no danger to either humans or domestic animals. The vaccine is held in wax and plastic capsules, placed inside hollow biscuits. Each bait package is labeled with instructions that it be left undisturbed.
In addition to the Capital District rabies oral vaccination study, an emergency bait distribution took place this summer in parts of Clinton and Essex counties after several infected raccoons turned up 60 miles north of the expected rabies front line. A DEC helicopter dropped bait in wilderness areas to try to create an immune barrier against the disease. Researchers intend to live-trap raccoons in the affected locations next month to find out if the oral vaccination was effective. A follow-up bait distribution is planned, as well.09/26/95-101 OPA