Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The annual bait drop program for southern West Virginia is key when it comes to stemming the spread of the deadly rabies virus. That’s why we welcome the return of this all-important campaign to Mercer and McDowell counties.
As part of the program, fish meal baits containing an oral raccoon rabies vaccine will be distributed in the wooded northern areas of Mercer County, and a larger part of McDowell County. They are distributed both by hand and air. The bait drop program was created to control the spread of raccoon rabies, a major source of rabies in West Virginia.
The areas of Mercer County to be included in this year’s bate drop include Coaldale Mountain, Windmill Gap, Arista Mountain, the Camp Creek area, and the upper part of Route 19 where it borders with Raleigh County, according to Doris Irwin, RN, BSW, with the Mercer County Health Department.
“It’s very unlikely anybody would run into these baits because it’s a pretty remote area,” Irwin said. “They don’t drop them over a populated area. It will not be in a place like Bramwell, Matoaka, anywhere like that. It will not be over the rural communities.”
The upcoming bait drop also will include a large part of McDowell County, according to Irwin.
Baiting with block-type baits distributed in more urban areas by hand is scheduled to begin Aug. 26. Aerial baiting could begin Aug. 28 and conclude in early to mid-September, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said. Inclement weather could extend the program.
Baits dropped by air look like ketchup packets with an exterior coating of a fine-brown colored fish meal coating. The block-type bait has a hard, brown-colored fish polymer shell that resembles a fig cookie, according to the USDA.
Feeding the baits to a dog or cat will not immunize them against rabies, and children should be told to leave baits alone if they are found.
If a person is exposed to the actual vaccine, which is a red or purple liquid, they are asked to wash with soap and water any areas of the skin that have come into contact with it. Then they should contact their local health department or the telephone number on the bait packet.
Rabies is a deadly disease. It is fatal if not treated. The virus can be transmitted through animal bites, some scratches and by getting saliva or brain tissue into an open wound or in the eyes, nose or mouth.
We welcome the continuation of the bait drop program in our region. The bait barrier program was first introduced to our region several years ago through the efforts of the late Emilie Holroyd, who worked tirelessly to have the program expanded into Mercer County.
It is our hope that the continuation of the barrier can slow the spread of the rabies virus in Mercer and McDowell counties.
In the meantime, pet owners should take steps now to ensure their animals are properly vaccinated against rabies. Such preventive measures are key when it comes to stopping the spread of rabies.