For immediate release - Feb. 18, 2005
TAVARES — Beginning on Wednesday, Feb. 23, Lake County will join several other adjoining counties in an effort to establish a rabies-free barrier along the Interstate 4 corridor.
The goal of the Third Annual Oral Rabies Vaccine Drop Program is to control the spread of rabies in raccoons by creating a no-rabies swath across the state. The program began in Pinellas County and each year it expands its focus with its eventual aim is to create a 30-mile wide swath of a rabies-free zone from Pinellas to Volusia counties. Participant counties in this year’s program include Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hernando, Polk, Sumter and Lake counties.
The rabies vaccine is in a plastic container wrapped in fishmeal polymer. When an animal bites into the bait and punctures the container, the vaccine is released. Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems should avoid the baits in case the envelope containing the virus has been punctured.
The public is advised against handling the baits, but if absolutely necessary, wear rubber gloves or use paper towels. If direct skin contact with the vaccine is made, wash hands and affected areas with soap and water, and rinse well. If consumed by other pets or livestock, the bait is not harmful, but it is not an acceptable replacement for regular pet rabies vaccinations.
While not the first year Lake County has been a participant in the program, in 2005 the program is expanding into more urban areas of the County. Last year, baits were dropped from fixed-wing aircrafts in the Green Swamp area. This year, the program will cover an area of Lake County from south of the City of Leesburg and west of U.S. Highway 27.
While fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters are able to disperse the baits fast and efficiently those methods are not conducive to more urban areas. On Feb. 23, as many as five teams of two individuals apiece will be throwing the baits from authorized ground vehicles and on foot. The teams are comprised of staff from the Lake County Animal Services Division, Mosquito and Aquatic Plant Management Division and the City of Clermont.
Lake County officials estimate the teams will be able to distribute the 3,000 baits supplied by the state Department of Agriculture in one day. All fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter bait distribution is conducted by a contracted company that uses a Polk County airport as base for the rabies-vaccine program.
Media is invited to a noon kick-off event at the Bartow Municipal Airport in Polk County on Feb. 23 for the Third Annual Oral Rabies Vaccine Drop Program. Representatives from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be in attendance to elaborate about the multi-county and agency program.
For more information, call the Lake County Health Department at (352) 253-6130 or the Rabies Hotline at (866) 487-3297.
Office: (352) 343-9609; Cell: (352) 455-0445