The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services will distribute two types of rabies vaccine bait packs in Maine: a fishmeal coated cube, left and center, and a waxy sweet blister pack, right. Maine Department of Health and Human Services

Thousands of bait packs filled with rabies vaccine are to be dropped in western and northern Maine next week as part of a state and federal collaboration to prevent possible spread in the state’s animal population.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services is cooperating with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to distribute over 50,000 oral rabies vaccine bait packs in northern Franklin County in response to a rabid raccoon reported near the Quebec border in June, according to a news release by the agencies Wednesday. Those areas include Eustis, Stratton and Route 27 to the border of Quebec.

USDA will also distribute around 365,000 baits across areas in Aroostook, Penobscot and Piscataquis counties.

The type of bait used in northwestern Maine are blister packs with sweet and waxy coatings. Though the bait cannot cause rabies in humans or domesticated animals, the USDA warns against handling them. Anyone who accidentally touches a bait pack should wash the contact area with warm water and soap. Studies have shown dogs may suffer an upset stomach when the bait packs are consumed.

The rabies virus poses threats to human and wildlife health causing infections in the central nervous system, specifically swelling in the brain and brainstem, and likely death. The virus spreads mainly by bites from an infected animal; post-exposure treatment can prevent disease in humans, the release said.

Some 43 animals tested positive for the virus in nine Maine counties as of Tuesday. Animals included bats, a cat, a goat, gray foxes, raccoons, skunks and woodchucks.

USDA Wildlife Services has collaborated with officials in New Brunswick and Quebec to eliminate rabies across Maine and Canada since 2003. The collaboration focuses on keeping the virus from spreading west of the Appalachian Mountains from Alabama northward.

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