"The reason we're concerned with this is because when raccoon rabies come into an area it’s never been, it historically spreads very fast, so that's the concern,” said USDA Wildlife Biologist Erin Patrick.
Patrick told WYMT surveillance has been increased in Bell, Harlan and Letcher Counties, meaning the USDA is capturing some raccoons and euthanizing them to test for rabies.
The USDA reports the raccoon variant rabies which was found in Wise, Virginia, is usually found in raccoons in Florida. Patrick said someone brought the sick raccoons north to Virginia and Pennsylvania in the 1970’s.
Since then, the USDA has conducted testing and started using a packet filled with a vaccination to combat the spread of rabies among raccoons.
"Inside this packet is the oral rabies vaccine and outside this packet is a fishy-oily-crumbly mix that's attracted to raccoons. We distribute these in areas that we know we've had some rabies issues going on or in areas that we're trying to keep from rabies problems,” Patrick said.
The USDA will begin to airdrop those vaccine packets from fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters at the end of May.
They advise if you have noticed any animals or raccoons acting confused, walking in circles or acting strange, call 1-866-487-3297.