USDA to Distribute Oral Rabies Vaccine Baits in Northwest Georgia


In an effort aimed at safeguarding public health and safety, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services program (USDA-WS) is set to commence the distribution of oral rabies vaccine (ORV) baits in northwest Georgia, starting around October 3, 2023. The primary objective of this initiative is to vaccinate raccoons in the region against the rabies virus.

This bait distribution effort is part of a broader nationwide collaboration led by the USDA to curtail the spread of raccoon rabies across the eastern United States. The program’s implementation in Georgia involves key partnerships with agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Georgia Department of Health, and various other stakeholders.

Approximately 500,000 baits, each containing the RABORAL V-RG® oral rabies vaccine (ORV), will be distributed across a vast area encompassing more than 7,000 square kilometers in north Georgia. The target recipients of these baits include raccoons and other wildlife species. The distribution will be carried out using low-flying airplanes and helicopters, and it will cover parts of the following counties: Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Chattooga, Murray, Gordon, Bartow, Cherokee, Pickens, Gilmer, Fannin, Union, Towns, and Rabun.

                             Rabies distribution coverage

The aerial bait drop is scheduled to take place from October 3rd to 9th, involving both helicopter and fixed-wing airplane operations. Helicopter baiting will be concentrated in urban and suburban areas situated south of Chattanooga. Strict precautions are taken during these operations to prevent baits from landing on roadways, structures, or large bodies of water. The ORV baits to be distributed via aircraft consist of vaccine-coated packets mixed with fish crumbles, which act as an attractant for raccoons. Each bait is clearly marked with a toll-free number that individuals can call for assistance or information if they encounter one.

It is strongly advised that anyone discovering these baits refrains from disturbing them to allow wildlife to find them naturally. However, if an intact bait is found in the open, it can be gently placed deeper into wooded or brush areas where wild animals are more likely to come across them. Handling baits should be done with gloves or a towel, followed by thorough handwashing. Pet owners are urged not to attempt to retrieve baits from their pets, as this may result in bites and potential exposure to the vaccine. While the baits are not harmful to pets, consuming a significant number of them may cause temporary stomach upset. If individuals come into contact with the liquid vaccine contained within the bait, prompt handwashing is essential, and they should contact their local health department for further guidance.

For any inquiries or concerns regarding the Wildlife Services Oral Rabies Vaccination Program, individuals are encouraged to contact the USDA at 1-866-487-3297. Detailed information, including a map of the 2023 bait distribution zone in Georgia, can also be found on the program’s website: USDA Wildlife Services Oral Rabies Vaccination Program.

This comprehensive effort reflects the commitment of federal and state agencies to proactively address rabies concerns, safeguard public health, and protect local wildlife populations in northwest Georgia.