USDA Begins 2017 Field Trials to Evaluate New Oral Rabies Vaccine in Raccoons, Other Wildlife

WASHINGTON, Aug 7, 2017—The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced it will begin its 2017 field trials in five states to evaluate the safety and immune effects of the ONRAB rabies vaccine in raccoons, skunks and other wildlife. This year’s trials will address new research questions including—among other things—issues related to bait density, flight line spacing, and efficacy.

APHIS’ Wildlife Services leads the cooperative National Rabies Management Program that works to prevent the spread of rabies in wildlife. The program currently uses another rabies vaccine to control the disease in raccoons, coyotes, and foxes. The ONRAB vaccine is being tested to determine whether it can more effectively control the disease in skunks and raccoons. Additional field trial research is underway to assess use of the vaccine in urban/suburban environments.

Beginning this month, APHIS’ Wildlife Services program will distribute more than 2.7 million ONRAB oral rabies vaccination baits in parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and West Virginia to test the immune effects in targeted wildlife. Wildlife Services personnel will sample raccoons and skunks in the study areas both prior to and following bait distribution to determine vaccination rates.

The 2017 ONRAB field trials are a collaborative effort among APHIS, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vaccine manufacturer (Artemis Technologies, Guelph, Ontario, Canada), and the State departments of agriculture, health and human resources, and natural resources. The 2017 field trials will span portions of:

  • Clinton, Essex, Erie, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, Niagara, Oswego, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming counties in New York;
  • Addison, Essex, Franklin, Grand Isle, Orleans, Lamoille, Caledonia, Chittenden, and Washington counties in Vermont;
  • Coos and Grafton counties in New Hampshire;
  • Ashtabula, Carroll, Columbiana, Geauga, Mahoning, Portage, Stark, Tuscarawas, and Trumbull counties in Ohio; and,
  • Barbour, Braxton, Doddridge, Greenbrier, Fayette, Harrison, Lewis, Marion, McDowell, Monongalia, Nicholas, Preston, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Taylor, Tyler, Upshur, Webster, Wyoming counties in West Virginia.


    The ONRAB bait is a blister pack filled with the vaccine and coated with a sweet attractant. When an animal bites into one of the baits it will release the vaccine into their mouth and, with an adequate dose, develop immunity to rabies. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the bait, but are asked to leave the bait undisturbed if they encounter it. If contact with bait occurs, the contact area should be immediately rinsed with warm water and soap. Each bait carries a toll-free number that people can call if they have additional questions concerning a bait contact.

Rabies is a serious public health concern. While rabies is almost always fatal once symptoms appear, it also is preventable. Human exposures can be successfully remedied if medical attention is sought immediately following exposure. Costs associated with detection, prevention and control of rabies exceed $300 million annually in the U.S. According to the CDC, about 90 percent of reported rabies cases in the U.S. are in wildlife. For additional information concerning rabies or the ORV program, please visit or contact WS toll free at 1-866-4USDAWS (1-866-487-3297).


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