Oral rabies vaccine bait is being dropped across East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia this month as part of a program with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services.

Low-flying aircraft will distribute small fishmeal-coated packets containing the oral rabies vaccine over the course of a week, which began Wednesday, according to news releases. Targeted wildlife species that consume the bait become vaccinated for rabies.

Distribution areas in Virginia include Bland, Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Giles, Grayson, Scott, Smyth, Russell, Washington, Wise, Wythe and Tazewell counties and the cities of Bristol and Abingdon.

In Tennessee, the areas include Sullivan County as well as Washington, Hawkins and Carter counties.

The vaccine products are safe, although officials advise people to leave the bait alone. If bait is in an area where a pet could easily eat it, officials suggest using gloves or a towel to move the bait into a wooded or fencerow area, according to a release from the Tennessee Department of Health. The bait isn’t dangerous to pets but can upset a pet’s stomach if several are consumed.

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