Dalton (GA) April 27, 2012 - raccoonWhitfield County Environmental Health officials announced today that a raccoon found last week in Dalton has tested positive for rabies.

Odin Stephens of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services said he had retrieved the dead raccoon from the garage of a LaVista Road residence on April 16 and tested it for rabies. Stephens reported to county environmental health yesterday that the results were positive.

This testing was part of wildlife vaccination and surveillance in this area that is being done under the USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services and the National Rabies Management Program.

Since 1997, Wildlife Services has been working cooperatively with local, state, and federal governments; universities; and other partners to manage rabies in wild carnivores through education, surveillance, and oral rabies vaccination (ORV). A vaccination zone has been established from Maine to Alabama to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies. Geographic features such as large lakes and rivers as well as the Appalachian Mountains act as natural barriers that help define the vaccination zone. Rabies vaccine-laden baits have been distributed targeting raccoon rabies in 15 eastern states.

Currently, the leading edge of the vaccination zone for this area includes northwest Whitfield County to just south of Dalton. ORVs were dropped among the wildlife population in the area last October. Subsequent rabies surveillance and testing has included the capture and testing of animals displaying abnormal behavior that have not exposed people or pets, such as was the case with the Dalton raccoon retrieved on April 16. No other cases of rabies have been reported for the county within the past year.

Health officials urge residents to protect against rabies by maintaining rabies vaccinations in their pets. A reduced-cost rabies vaccination clinic will be held in Whitfield County on Saturday, May 5th. Please see the attached document for additional information.

For more information about the Oral Rabies Vaccination Program, go to http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife_damage/oral_rabies/index.shtml.

To learn about rabies and its prevention, call the Whitfield County Environmental Health Office at (706) 272-200 or go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov.

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