Province doubles investment in wildlife rabies control program (08/08/19)

NB 1186

Aug. 19, 2008

FREDERICTON (CNB) - The province's wildlife rabies control program will be expanded this year to include a vaccination program delivered by aircraft and by people on the ground, Health Minister Michael Murphy said today.

"For the past eight years, the wildlife rabies control program has successfully trapped and vaccinated wild animals, creating a buffer zone against rabies," Murphy said. "However, in response to the number of rabies cases in neighbouring Maine, we are expanding the program in terms of the area covered and the number of animals we expect to vaccinate."

Beginning Aug. 25, an oral rabies vaccination (ORV) program will be conducted in the border area from St. Stephen to Woodstock. In previous years, the program was carried out along the border from St. Stephen to McAdam.

ORV involves distributing bait that contains a rabies vaccine. When the bait and vaccine are eaten, raccoons and skunks become vaccinated against rabies.

ORV is a cost-effective method of vaccinating a large number of wild animals over a large area in a short period of time. In rural areas baits will be distributed by yellow airplanes flying about 200 meters above ground. In urban areas baits will be distributed by a person.

In early October, as part of ORV, a team of trappers and veterinarians will live trap raccoons and skunks, collect blood samples from them, and then release them in small sample plots in the ORV zone. Only live traps will be used, and all other animals will be released.

Last fall, 1,149 raccoons, 589 skunks and 268 stray cats were vaccinated and released as part of the trap-vaccinate-release program. This program will not be conducted in 2008.

Murphy said that the provincial government will more than double its investment in the rabies control program in 2008 in order to cover the larger geographical area, and to move to the ORV program. The projected cost is $560,000.

Raccoon rabies entered New Brunswick from Maine in the fall of 2000, when 13 cases were reported in raccoons and skunks. In 2001, 48 cases were reported in wild animals. The first wildlife rabies control program was delivered in the fall of 2001. There have been no cases of rabies in New Brunswick since 2002. However, cases continue to be found in Maine every year.

Dr. Eilish Cleary, acting chief medical officer of health, encourages New Brunswickers to learn more about the health risks from rabies and other wildlife disease.

"We can safely enjoy the outdoors by taking simple precautionary measures," Cleary said. "Enjoy wildlife from a distance, and do not adopt wild animals as pets. Be a responsible pet owner, and vaccinate your pet against rabies."

Additional information on rabies may be found online, by calling the rabies information line at 1-877-372-2437, or by visiting a Public Health Office.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Information lists follow. MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Cumby, communications, Department of Health, 506 457-3522.

How can you protect yourself against rabies?

Awareness and prevention are the keys to reducing exposure to animals that may have rabies. If exposure occurs, quick treatment is critical to prevent the disease.

To protect yourself against rabies, take the following steps:

Be a responsible pet owner

Enjoy wildlife from a distance

Prevent dog and cat bites

Report suspect animals

Go to the hospital if you are bitten