Rabies Awareness

The Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment, in conjunction with the Cape Cod Rabies Task Force, continues to assist towns with maintaining control of terrestrial raccoon rabies on Cape Cod.  Presently all fifteen towns throughout Barnstable County have reported positive cases for the raccoon strain of rabies.

The Cape Cod Rabies Task Force (CCRTF), co-chaired by staff member Lee A. Mannillo and Karl von Hone, Yarmouth Director of Natural Resources, continues to meet regularly to coordinate with local Health Directors, Animal Control Officers and Natural Resource Officers Cape-wide.  Through these coordination efforts, the Task Force works to facilitate the education of town residents and visitors in order to implement town policies and procedures and coordinate the semi-annual distribution of the Oral Rabies Vaccine (ORV).

Since 1994, the Department has worked in conjunction with federal, state and local government in the fight against this potentially fatal disease.  For over a decade the Program was successful in keeping rabies off Cape Cod, using the canal as a natural barrier.  Although the rabies-free barrier was breeched in 2004, baiting continues twice a year.  The goal is to vaccinate wildlife against this disease to reduce and then hopefully eliminate rabies on the Cape. The Cape Cod ORV (CCORV) Program is praised as one of the longest running, increasingly successful projects to control rabies in Massachusetts.  Unfortunately, the CCORV Program was one of the many public health initiatives which recently lost its state funding.  As a direct result of the CCRTF and local communities’ commitment, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will continue to fund the baiting program.  Approximately 80,000 baits will be distributed this year in the towns Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, Chatham, Harwich, Orleans and Brewster.

The Barnstable County representative of the CCRTF is active in other areas as well.  Ms. Mannillo coordinates trainings for town police departments, health departments, departments of public works, Highway and transfer station staff educating employees about rabies exposure prevention.  Communities continue to benefit from the efforts of the CCRTF through annual low cost rabies vaccination clinics as part of a statewide control program.