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Objective

To evaluate the use of bait containing rabies vaccine to create a barrier of rabies-vaccinated raccoons in Massachusetts and to determine the effectiveness of various bait distribution strategies in halting the spread of rabies.

Design

Prospective study.

Sample Population

Free-ranging raccoons.

Procedure

Baits were distributed twice yearly in a 207-km2 (80-mi2) area in the vicinity of the Cape Cod Canal. Bait density and distribution strategy varied among 3 treatment areas. Raccoons were caught in live traps after bait distribution and anesthetized; blood samples were obtained to measure serum antibody titers to rabies virus. Vaccination rates were determined by the percentage of captured raccoons with antibody titers to rabies virus ≥ 1:5. In addition, raccoons with clinical signs of illness inside the vaccination zone and adjacent areas were euthanatized and submitted for rabies testing.

Results

The percentage of vaccinated raccoons differed significantly among the following 3 areas with various bait densities: high-density area with uniform bait distribution (103 baits/km2 [267 baits/mi2]) = 37%; low-density area with additional targeted bait distribution (93 baits/km2 [240 baits/mi2]) = 67%; and, high-density area with additional targeted bait distribution (135 baits/km2 [350 baits/mi2]) = 77%. Nineteen animals with rabies (15 raccoons, 3 skunks, 1 cat) were reported in the area just outside of the vaccination zone, but only 1 raccoon with rabies was reported from inside the vaccination zone.

Clinical Implications

In this suburban study area, an approximate vaccination rate of 63% was sufficient to halt the spread of rabies in free-ranging raccoons. Compared with uniform bait distribution, targeting raccoon habitats increased vaccination rates. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1998;213:1407-1412)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association