USDA to drop rabies vaccines starting in late August

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Since January, a total of fourteen rabid raccoons have been found in Monongalia County alone.

Vaccines will be released by use of plane or through ground delivery to help curb rabies in raccoons.

The USDA plans to fight back against the disease through their annual oral rabies vaccine distribution program.

"USDA plant and animal health inspection services has added most of Monongalia County back into the oral rabies vaccine bait program which is going to take place from August 22 to September 5th," said Mary Wade Triplett, the public information officer for Monongalia County Health Department.

The plan is to cover the East coast of the United States with the center of the map falling on West Virginia. The drops will fall from Monongalia County to counties south of Randolph and Webster.

Vaccines will be distributed either by air for rural areas using rotary or fixed wing planes, or by ground for more populated areas including Philippi, Clarksburg and Buckhannon.

"The goal is to keep rabies from moving west. We have rabies in the Eastern United States so that is why they are not necessarily looking at a particular county's situation. They are looking at a big picture, trying to keep rabies from spreading west," said Triplett.

Triplett says Monongalia County was taken off of the drop distribution map in recent years, but has been added back.

The vaccines will be dropped in baits covered in fishmeal to attract animals.

According to the USDA website the ORV's will be focused on the raccoon population on the East coast.

What should happen if you find an ORV?

"If people find them, they should leave them alone. If they are in an area where children and pets play. They should maybe try to relocate them to a place where wildlife might find them, using a glove or plastic bag to move them. They are not harmful if your dog eats some, but if they eat too many they might get an upset stomach," said Triplett.

5 News spoke with residents of Harrison County who said they had not seen the vaccine drops from previous years. 5 News also reached out to USDA for further comment on the program, but was unable to receive an answer.