Annual aerial spreading of rabies vaccine baits starting on south-eastern border

September 9/2019

The Finnish Food Authority will begin aerial distribution of rabies bait vaccines along the south-eastern border on 13 September. These will continue for about one month. The goal of these air drops is to prevent rabies occurring in animals in the wild from spreading to Finland. Finland has been officially free of rabies since 1991.

Rabies vaccine baits have been used successfully for decades around the world to fight against rabies in animals in the wild. Dropping vaccine baits in the wild has proved to be the only efficient way of eradicating rabies in large areas.

The vaccines will be distributed along the south-eastern border to a zone around 40 kilometres wide reading from Ilomantsi to Virolahti, and in a 20-kilometres-wide zone following the south coast from the eastern border to Pyhtää. The total surface area of the aerial distribution is around 10,000 square kilometres. Flights will be made daily between 7 am and 9 pm for a period of about five weeks. The distribution will begin in the northern parts of the area.

The baits will be dropped from an aeroplane every 60 - 70 metres, with one kilometre between each air route. They will not be dropped on yards, population centres and any waterways. However, if baits are found in abundance within a small area or near homes, you should inform the Finnish Food Authority.

How to recognise the baits

The bait vaccines are brown chunks with a size of around 5 x 4.5 x 1.5 centimetres, weighing around 30 grams, and smelling strongly of fish extract. The vaccines containing weakened rabies viruses are in fluid form in a foil capsule inside the baits.

Pictures of bait vaccines

Avoid touching bait vaccines

You should not touch any bait vaccines, because small carnivores will not touch them if they smell of humans, and the vaccination will fail.

However, any baits found near homes should be moved, wearing protective gloves, to the edge of woods or some other protected place, to prevent children and dogs from touching them.

If the vaccine comes into contact with the mucous membranes of your mouth, nose, or eyes, you must immediately rinse the area with plenty of water for 15 minutes. If the vaccine comes into contact with an open wound or broken skin, the wounds must be washed with plenty of water and soap for 15 minutes and cleaned after that with 70 per cent alcohol. You must then contact a health centre.

If dogs eat vaccine capsules, they may vomit and feel nauseous for a while. Any adverse reactions should be reported to the Finnish Medicines Agency Fimea.

More information about the adverse effects of animal medication (Fimea)

You can gather berries and mushrooms from an area into which the vaccines have been dropped.

Send small predators for follow-up research

The occurrence of rabies is constantly monitored by examining samples of wild animals. It is important to send foxes, raccoon dogs, and other small predators that were hunted in the vaccination area and its vicinity to Finnish Food Authority for follow-up research. Finnish Food Authority tracks the coverage of the vaccine protection and the possible occurrence of rabies from the animal samples. Animals found dead or put down because of illness are also requested as samples for rabies monitoring.

For further information, please contact:
Senior Researcher Tiina Nokireki
+358 50 413 1687 (aerial spreading and rabies diagnostics)
Senior Inspector Tiia Tuupanen
+358 40 489 3348 (rabies prevention)
Senior Researcher Marja Isomursu
+358 40 512 1248 (research on small predators)