Raccoon strain rabies is a strain of rabies carried mainly by raccoons. Raccoon strain rabies is still rabies. It is spread to other wildlife species, domestic animals, pets and humans through the saliva of an infected animal in the same way as other strains of rabies. The only difference is that it is spread primarily by raccoons.
Raccoon rabies was virtually unknown prior to the 1950s. Florida experienced the first case of raccoon rabies. The disease then spread slowly during the next three decades into Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina. In 1978 Virginia experienced an outbreak of raccoon strain rabies due to the translocation of raccoons from Georgia and Florida. The first cases appeared in West Virginia and Virginia in the late 1970s. Since then, raccoon rabies in the area expanded to form the most intensive rabies outbreak in the U.S.
The strain now occurs in all the eastern coastal states, as well as Alabama, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, Ohio, Maine and even southern Ontario.
Raccoon strain rabies was first documented in Tennessee in June, 2003. Four positive cases were discovered in raccoons in Carter County and one positive case was found in a feral cat in Johnson County. A second occurrence of raccoon strain rabies was discovered in January, 2004. Seven raccoons tested positive for raccoon strain rabies in Hamilton County.
The United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Service, Wildlife Services launched an oral rabies vaccination program in 2002. The goal of the program is to stop the westward spread of the raccoon strain rabies. Oral rabies vaccine has been distributed by aircraft in East Tennessee. Following distribution of the oral vaccine, active rabies surveillance has been conducted in the baiting zone. The following is a list of counties in the baiting/surveillance zone: Anderson, Bledsoe, Blount, Bradley, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Cocke, Cumberland, Franklin, Grainger, Greene, Grundy, Hamblen, Hamilton, Hancock, Hawkins, Jefferson, Johnson, Knox, Loudon, Marion, McMinn, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Polk, Rhea, Roane, Scott, Sequatchie, Sevier, Sullivan, Unicoi, Union, and Washington Counties.