Soldiers conduct large scale rabies vaccination of wildlife around Fort Drum

FORT DRUM, NY – Environmental health soldiers recently spent nearly two weeks spreading rabies vaccination bait drops around Fort Drum to limit the number of rabies-infected animals in and around the installation.

Taking place from Aug. 27 to Sept. 7, the rabies bait drop process had the Fort Drum Medical Activity Environmental Health soldiers walk along wooded areas, spreading the more than 2,000 small caramel flavored vaccinations in order to cover as wide an area as possible. The intent would be for animals to eat the sweet bait which would, in turn, vaccinate them from potential rabies infection.

“Environmental Health distributes these baits annually to help out with the rabies endemic here in the North Country,” said Sgt. Earlinn Cace Carillo, the noncommissioned officer in charge of Fort Drum Environmental Health and a native of Portland, Oregon. One of the biggest concernsat Fort Drum are the raccoons. “You have rabid raccoons that roam here;  there’s a lot of them, and they’re big, too.”

The Fort Drum portion of the project was one piece of a larger undertaking requiring the cooperation of the Fort Drum Environmental Health specialists with the Jefferson County, New York Department of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Outside of Fort Drum, the USDA airdropped the vaccine throughout the North Country.

“It takes the whole community to protect the public against rabies,” said Faith Lustik, the public information officer for Jefferson County Public Health. “Fort Drum has a big land mass and is a large part of the county. If we’re going to achieve the goal of eliminating rabies, we have to have the help of our partners.”

Carillo believes prevention and education is key to helping protect public health on Fort Drum.

“For us, we care about the public,” he said. “This is what I call public care instead of patient care. We prevent people from going to the hospitals. This is all for the Soldiers, dependents and civilians out here at Fort Drum.”

Carillo said Fort Drum residents can do their part to help protect themselves and their families from rabies-infected animals by taking a few simple steps at home.

“When it comes to prevention, it’s all about sanitation controls,” Carillo said. “Keep your garbage away and keep your waste covered at all times and away from the animals. Put it where it’s supposed to be and don’t leave garbage lying around because that’s what attracts them and they’ll take the opportunity to eat your (garbage).”

In addition to managing garbage, residents with pets are also advised to vaccinate their pets from rabies to help better protect them.

“Some people might say they only have an indoor pet, but they need to be vaccinated, too,” Lustik said. In Northern New York “we have bats that carry rabies, and they can make their way into the home.”

For the Fort Drum Environmental Health Soldiers, conducting the rabies vaccine bait drop is just one of many different ways they help protect public health on the installation.

“There’s a whole lot of aspects of preventative medicine we conduct and (teach) people just so they’re aware of what’s out there,” Carillo said. “If they’re more educated, they’ll be more aware of the hazards and the risks involved, and hopefully they’ll think about what they’re doing.”