Skip to main content

Taking the Bait: USDA Safeguards Wildlife Against the Rabies Virus

Posted by Alisha McDowell, APHIS Public Affairs Specialist (detailed) in Animals
Sep 25, 2023
Oral rabies vaccine fishmeal bait

Rabies, one of the oldest known diseases, remains a significant wildlife-management and public-health challenge. September 28th will mark the 17th annual World Rabies Day, a global health observance started in 2007 to raise awareness about the disease and enhance prevention and control efforts worldwide.

Rabies is caused by a virus infecting mammals’ central nervous system and is almost always transmitted through a rabid animal’s bite. More than 90% of rabies cases in the United States occur in wildlife: raccoons, skunks, foxes, and bats.

Household pets can become infected when exposed to rabid wildlife. People are most frequently exposed to rabies by their pets. Fortunately, we can prevent rabies using vaccines for humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife.

Since 1995, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s National Rabies Management Program, in Wildlife Services (WS), has tackled this complex challenge in wildlife. The programs’ goal is to target carnivore-specific variants of the rabies virus through the oral rabies vaccinations that cooperators distribute.

Each year, WS and our cooperators distribute about 6.5 million baits in selected States to address raccoon rabies. Oral rabies vaccination projects are targeting coyotes to prevent the reemergence of canine rabies in the US. The program has successfully eliminated grey fox rabies in Texas. APHIS’ rabies control efforts protect wildlife and help protect humans from this devastating disease.

Review the United States National Plan for Wildlife Rabies Management, a 5-year framework for collaborative management of wildlife rabies in the U.S. to protect human, domestic animal and wildlife health.

Category/Topic: Animals