FREDERICTON (GNB) – An aerial bait drop to control the spread of raccoon variant rabies will take place, weather permitting, from Aug. 21 to 23 in the Charlotte County area as part of an oral rabies vaccination program.

“Late summer is the best time to implement such a program,” said Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet. “We appreciate the assistance of the people of Charlotte County in bringing potential cases to our attention, as it has helped our provincial rabies committee determine the best control plan for wildlife rabies.”

The provincial government will invest $600,000 to implement the rabies control program in 2015. A provincial rabies committee was formed earlier this year to develop a long-term plan to deal with the spread of rabies in the Charlotte County area. A provincial rabies co-ordinator was also recently hired.

Since May 2014, 20 cases of the disease have been confirmed in raccoons and skunks in the Charlotte County area.

The program involves distributing bait that contains a rabies vaccine. When it is eaten by raccoons and skunks they become vaccinated against rabies.

Oral vaccination is a cost-effective method of vaccinating a large number of wild animals over a wide-ranging area in a short period of time. In rural areas, bait will be distributed by a yellow airplane flying at about 200 metres. The aerial bait drop is scheduled to begin Aug. 21 if weather permits. In urban areas, bait will be distributed on the ground by hand by provincial staff.

Exposure to the bait is not harmful to people or pets. In the unlikely event that people or pets come in contact with the vaccine contained in the bait, it is recommended that a doctor or veterinarian be contacted, as a precaution.

The vaccine is designed for wildlife, not dogs, cats or livestock. Pets and livestock must receive an injection from a veterinarian to be vaccinated against rabies.

“While the program will be helpful to control the spread of rabies among wildlife, we encourage New Brunswickers to continue to take precautions to avoid coming into contact with this deadly disease,” said Doucet. “That includes keeping a safe distance from wildlife, ensuring your pets’ vaccinations are up to date, and teaching children how to respect wild and domestic animals to avoid bites and scratches.”

More information on rabies is available online.