Company aims to eliminate rabies with vaccine bait packets

Channel 2's Craig Lucie reports.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A local company is aiming to eliminate rabies in wildlife in Georgia using a unique approach.

Channel 2’s Craig Lucie went to Gwinnett County on Thursday afternoon where the company told him they have already had great success in other states.

In the southern part of Texas, they say they have eliminated rabies in coyotes.

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To date, the company, Merial, which manufactures the rabies vaccine in Athens, has already distributed 160 million doses in the U.S.

Right now they have a major project to eradicate rabies in raccoons in northwest Georgia, which will keep you and your pets safe.

Just this year, they’ve distributed more than 7 million doses of Raboral V-RG in 12 states including Georgia. In our state, we’ve had several record breaking outbreaks in Henry and Hall counties.

“In Georgia in particular it’s mostly in raccoons but can also be in foxes, skunks and coyotes,” rabies expert Dr. Joanne Maki said. She’s the director in veterinarian public health for Merial, which makes many of the drugs for dogs and cats like Frontline and Heartgard.

Monday was World Rabies Day and according to The World Health Organization, rabies is one of the world’s most deadly infectious diseases, killing an estimated 160 people a day.

Merial wants to change that with the Raboral vaccine, which is placed inside bait that is dropped from a helicopter or plane.

“By immunizing populations of wildlife, we can decrease and prevent the transmission of the rabies virus and reduce the number of wildlife that suffer and die of rabies. That also prevents people and animals from being exposed,” Maki said.

The baits are about the size of a mustard packet. After they drop them from the air or toss them from a vehicle, a team goes around and makes sure they are being consumed.

“When they eat the bait, they are vaccinated orally,” said Maki. She said it’s not harmful if a dog were to consume it.

Right now they are dropping 1.7 million bait packets in Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and north Georgia.

“Our current program has prevented the spread of raccoon rabies from going westward over

Appalachian Mountains toward the central part of the U.S.,” Dr. Maki said.

Merial can only sell to government agencies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture helps spread the vaccine bait.