Raccoon rabies vaccines: Officials hope program stops growing problem

In an effort to curb the spread of rabies in raccoons, state health officials have planned a massive vaccination program for this month.

The Alabama Department of Public Health will distribute oral vaccination baits starting March 19 in the Shelby County area.

The baits will be tossed by hand in populated areas south of I-459 and west of I-65. This includes the communities of Alabaster, Helena and Pelham.

Low-flying planes will also drop vaccines in forested and rural areas throughout the county.

&8220;The goal of this is to stop the spread of rabies from raccoons into west Alabama,&8221; said Jim Hollins, the county&8217;s health department area environment director.

The number of vaccinations distributed will depend on the number of raccoons living in residential areas.

Two types of baits will be used &045;&045; a coated sack that looks like a ketchup packet covered in brown fishmeal and a fishmeal polymer, which resembles an ice cube.

Both types have the warning &8220;Rabies Vaccine: Do Not Disturb&8221; and are labeled with a toll-free number for questions.

People and animals cannot get rabies from touching the baits. However, state health officials advise washing your hands if you do come into contact with the baits.

Vaccines found where children and pets play can be removed by relocating the intact bait to a wooded lot, ditch or any other raccoon habitat. Damaged baits can be thrown away.

The vaccines are not harmful to pets, but Hollins said children should be kept away from them.

&8220;If a child eats the bait, call the public health department immediately,&8221; he said.

The vaccination program is expected to end around March 23.

For questions about

found baits, contact 1-800-677-0939 or the telephone number listed on the vaccines.