Tennessee Officials Air-Dropping Marshmallow-Flavored Rabies Vaccines to Raccoons

by Emily Morgan
Photo by: Dahrs

Raccoons in Tennessee are in for a sugary surprise. According to the state’s officials, wildlife authorities plan to give raccoons a rabies vaccine with a sweet twist.

The Department of Agriculture and Wildlife Services and the Tennessee Department of Health plans to airdrop marshmallow-flavored rabies vaccines to the animals wrapped in fishmeal.

According to reports, low-flying helicopters made the drops in the state from October 3 and will do this until October 15. In addition to the Volunteer State, other bordering states such as Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia will also get the treatment.

Officials hope the oral vaccines will stop the spread of the deadly virus in the wild raccoon populations.

According to Tennessee’s State Epidemiologist, Dr. John Dunn, “Controlling raccoon rabies keeps people, pets, and livestock safe. We’re pleased to partner with USDA Wildlife Services in this program to reduce rabies in wildlife and protect the community.”

At this moment, the USDA is testing the experimental, marshmallow-flavored vaccine. They will also distribute it in other parts of the southeast.

Scientists have tested this vaccine, dubbed Onrab, for several years to study its environmental impacts. Scientists have also tried it on raccoon populations in Ohio and have been successful.

Of course, there are some risks associated with the vaccine. The USDA says that while the bait packets are relatively safe, people should still be cautious. They urge people to ensure their pets can’t get to them and confine them if they notice them.

While one won’t harm your pet if they ingest it, experts say multiple packets could upset its stomach. In addition, they say you should try not to remove it from your pet’s mouth to avoid potentially getting bitten.

There will also be USDA warnings on all vaccines to keep people, especially children, away from them.

Rabies warning issued after woman brings in wild raccoon into North Dakota bar

The vaccine news comes after North Dakota officials recently issued a rabies alert after someone brought a raccoon into a bar. The warning was issued in September for the small town of Maddock. As a result, officials with the North Dakota Department of Health & Human Services advised that anyone who may have been bitten or had contact with the raccoon to speak with a healthcare provider.

“Because rabies is such a serious disease with a nearly 100% fatality rate, we are making this information available to the public as a precautionary measure,” said Amanda Bakken, an epidemiologist with the state health department.

Bartender Cindy Smith said that a resident brought the raccoon into the bar during happy hour and showed it off to another patron. Then, the staff immediately asked her to leave.

“We finally got her out with it, and that’s all that happened,” Smith said. “It never left her arms one time, and there was absolutely no biting.”

This year, six rabies cases have been reported in North Dakota. These include two bats, two cats, one bovine, and one skunk.