(03/13/2001)
About 750,000 vaccine pellets twice the size of an ice cube will be dropped on West Virginia's western and west central counties, the edge of the state's twenty year rabies outbreak.

Rabies was recently certified in a fox in Calhoun County, although wildlife experts expressed more concern about the spread into the raccoon population. Despite numerous kills and erratic behavior in Calhoun raccoons, none have been certified with rabies. Most appear to be suffering from distemper.

The pellets will be dropped from helicopters and airplanes, the animals eating the fish-scented cubes and becoming immune to the disease. Dr. Henry Taylor, chief of West Virginia's Bureau of Public Health says he is concerned about raccoons. In 1985 the agency validated 15 positive raccoons. That has now jumped to nearly 600.

The outbreak has crept over 31 of West Virginia's 55 counties during the past years, moving west, north and south. The state's westernmost counties are on the edge, yet to be declared part of the outbreak.

The vaccine has proved extremely effective against the disease, according to the USDA Fish and Wildlife. The $1.5 million pellet program will be a joint venture of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the West Virginia Bureau of Health and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Bill Bonwell, state director of wildlife services for the USDA, says the pellets are otherwise harmless to other species.


Hur Herald from Sunny Cal
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