Aerial distribution of rabies vaccine baits starts on south-eastern border


<p>The aerial distribution of rabies vaccine baits for small predators along the south-eastern border will start this spring on 25 September 2012. According to plans, the distribution of baits is to be completed within four weeks. The flights are scheduled to occur daily between 6 am and 9 pm. Vaccine baits are distributed for the purpose of seeking to prevent the possible spreading of forest rabies to Finland.</p>

The area in which vaccine baits are distributed was expanded last autumn due to the rabies case found in the Russian Karelia. The baits will be distributed on the south-eastern border in a 40-km wide zone, excluding waterways, from Ilomantsi to Virolahti, and further in a 20-km wide zone along the southern coast all the way to Pyhtää. The total aerial distribution area is ca. 10,000 km². A total of 180,000 vaccine baits will be dropped in the campaign. The baits are dropped from the airplane at intervals of 60-70 metres. Baits are not dropped into courtyards, population centres or waterways. Baits that fall near habitation can be moved, wearing protective gloves, to the edge of a forest or some other safe location. Baits found in the terrain must be left alone so that the animals will not refrain from eating them due to human smell.

The vaccine baits used in the aerial spreading are brown pieces approximately 5 x 4.5 x 1.5 cm in size and about 30 grams in weight, with a strong smell of fish extract. The vaccine inside the bait is in liquid form inside a foil capsule. The vaccine contains attenuated rabies viruses which are not hazardous to animals.

Anyone who accidentally gets the vaccine contained in the foil wrapping on the mucous membranes of their mouth, nose or eyes should rinse the affected areas with plenty of water for 15 minutes. Anyone who is exposed to the vaccine through open wounds or broken skin should rinse the wounds with plenty of water and soap for fifteen minutes and then clean the wounds with 70 proof alcohol. They should also contact a health care centre.

Finland has been officially rabies-free since 1991. The occurrence of rabies is constantly monitored by examining samples of wild animals. In addition, small predators are being examined in or near the bait vaccination area to monitor the effectiveness of the vaccine baits. In 2011, a total of 479 wild animals were examined for rabies. Most of them were raccoon dogs and foxes. In addition, 34 domestic animals were examined. All samples were negative for rabies.

Any sightings in nature of raccoon dogs, foxes or other predators that are behaving strangely shall be reported to the municipal or provincial veterinary officer or to the police, who will forward the animal to Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira for examination. It is also important that all foxes, raccoon dogs and other small predators that are killed by hunters or found dead in or near the bait vaccination area are sent to Evira for follow-up examination. In particular, Evira would like to see the number of samples from the Northern Karelia region increase, as the vaccination area has been expanded there. The purpose of the animal samples is to monitor the coverage of vaccine protection and also any occurrences of rabies. The samples are sent to Evira's Production Animal and Wildlife Research Unit in Oulu. These examinations are free of charge and the samples can be sent using Matkahuolto parcel services, also free of charge.

More information about sending small predators to Evira (in Finnish).

More information about rabies (on the OIE website). 

For more information, please contact:
Tiina Nokireki, Senior Researcher, Veterinary Virology Research Unit, tel. +358 50 413 1687
(Aerial distribution of the rabies vaccine and rabies diagnostics)
Sirpa Kiviruusu, Head of Section, Animal Health and Welfare Unit, tel. +358 40 092 0503
(Combating highly contagious diseases, rabies)
Marja Isomursu, Researcher, Production and Wild Animal Research Unit, tel. +358 40 512 1248
(Issues concerning small predators and rabies testing)

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