Rabies vaccine — in the form of a sweet-smelling oral bait that is attractive to raccoons and skunks — will be dropped in rural areas of Vermont from low-flying aircraft and placed by hand in residential centers in the coming week.

About 450,000 quarter-sized blister packs containing rabies vaccine will be distributed in nearly 100 Vermont communities across nine counties.

Vermont Public Health Veterinarian Natalie Kwit said the bait packs are not poisonous, and people or animals can’t get rabies from the bait, “but it’s important to leave the packs undisturbed so that they can be eaten by wild animals.”

If a bait must be moved, use gloves or a plastic bag in case the blister pack is damaged. If your pet eats a bait, or if a child brings one home, let officials know by calling the Vermont Rabies Hotline at 1-800-472-2437 or the number printed on the bait.

Rabies is a deadly viral disease of the brain that infects mammals. It is most often seen in raccoons, skunks, foxes and bats, but unvaccinated pets and livestock can also get rabies.

So far this year, five animals in Vermont have tested positive for rabies, three of them raccoons.

According to wildlife officials, rabid animals often show a change in their normal behavior, but you cannot tell whether an animal has rabies simply by looking at it. People should not touch or pick up wild animals or strays — even baby animals.

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