FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - In an effort to maintain the rabies immunity levels in gray foxes established by recent rabies vaccination programs, the Coconino County Board of Supervisors has declared a rabies quarantine.
The Board's action was a result of a request by the Coconino County Health Department (CCHD) to allow for the implementation of a rabies vaccination program. The program consists of two elements. The first focuses on vaccinating the fox population in the greater Flagstaff area. The second element of the program involves vaccinating the skunk population in three separate areas of Flagstaff-East Flagstaff, Mt. Elden and Cheshire.
The quarantine for the greater Flagstaff area will begin on June 14 and continue through June 25. The two-week quarantine period will allow for the placement of rabies vaccination packets and will help to ensure that the bait packets are ingested by the intended wildlife, and not domestic pets.
On June 25, the quarantine area will be reduced to include the East Flagstaff, Mt. Elden and Cheshire areas and will continue in these areas to September 10. This will enable staff to continue the Trap Vaccinate and Release (TVR) program directed at the skunk population.
A total of 129,600 coated Oral Rabies Vaccine (ORV) packets targeting gray foxes will be dispersed during the quarantine period. The majority (97 percent) of these ORV baits will be distributed by a fixed-winged aircraft covering a 1,433 square mile area (excluding wilderness areas). The remaining packets will be distributed by staff in the populated areas.
Barbara Worgess, CCHD Chief Health Officer stated, "Last year's Oral Rabies Vaccination Program proved to be very successful. We have seen a drastic increase in the number of gray foxes having rabies antibodies. There have been no positive cases of rabies in gray foxes since the bait distribution in 2009. This highlights the success of last year's ORV baiting and we hope that the continuation of the program this year will help to maintain that success."
The Quarantine places certain mandatory restrictions on residents within the Quarantine area(s). All cats and dogs must be confined within an enclosure or secured on the owner's property; or when not on the owner's property, pets must be on a leash no longer than six feet. State law also requires that dogs be leashed and under the owner's control. Cats or dogs found at-large in the area will be impounded. This requirement will increase the likelihood that the baits are ingested by the intended wildlife and that pets are not unintentionally trapped during the TVR Program.
All persons within the quarantine area who own or control domesticated dogs and cats must make sure that their pets are vaccinated and that vaccinations are up to date. Rabies vaccinations are available from local veterinarians and at CCHD Rabies Vaccinations Clinics. The next low-cost CCHD Rabies Vaccination Clinic will be held on Saturday, July 17 from 1 to 4 p.m., at the Coconino Humane Association, 3501 East Butler Avenue in Flagstaff. The cost for rabies vaccinations is $6 for dogs and cats. Checks and cash payment will be accepted.
During the quarantine period, a team of staff and volunteers from partner agencies will be distributing vaccine bait in selected parts of the quarantine area and continuing public education. The quarantine allows the Health Department and participating agencies to enter private property to place vaccine bait packets. The vaccine bait packets are not harmful to humans or animals; however, the Health Department recommends that you avoid touching or disturbing the packets.
People are prohibited from interfering with the bait packets in any way, to help ensure that enough wild animals become vaccinated by eating the bait.
Feeding wild animals is also prohibited as a part of the quarantine. This will help to minimize the opportunity for exposure to pets and humans by keeping wild animals away from homes, pets and people. In addition, pet owners must not leave pet food outside after sundown, and compost bins and piles must be completely enclosed.
Wild animals may not be trapped within the quarantine area limits or transported outside the area without prior written approval from the Coconino County Health Department. Do not approach a wild animal. Call the Health Department for assistance.
A copy of the Quarantine Declaration and a map of the quarantine areas are available at www.coconino.az.gov/health.
Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system of mammals, including humans. The disease is almost always fatal when not treated. Rabies can be transmitted from wild animals to pets such as cats and dogs, making human exposure a real possibility.
In 2009, 35 animals tested positive for rabies. No positive rabies cases have been reported in Coconino County this year.
The program will be conducted in partnership with the Arizona Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service/Wildlife Services (USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services Program). USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services Program is providing funding for the Rabies Vaccination Program.
Please contact the Coconino County Health Department Rabies Information Line at (928) 679-7350 or toll-free at (877) 679-7272 for additional information.