Wildlife disease experts believe they are halting the spread of raccoon rabies.
Now they aim to eliminate it altogether.
Disease expert Richard Chipman made those somewhat surprising statements recently at the Northeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' conference in Charleston.
Chipman, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's assistant national rabies coordinator, said distribution of vaccine packets from airplanes has essentially stopped the disease from spreading any farther than it already has.
"Now we need to eliminate raccoon rabies," he said.
A recently developed vaccine might just allow that to happen.
Chipman said the vaccine, called ONRAB, has helped eliminate raccoon rabies in the Canadian province of Quebec. He also said that tests last year in southern West Virginia showed it to be even more effective than V-RG, the vaccine currently being used.
Raccoon rabies, for those unfamiliar with the story, first showed up in 1953 in Florida, and spread approximately 35 miles a year after that.
Chipman said the disease's advance jumped dramatically in the mid-1970s when hunting clubs imported raccoons from infected areas in the Deep South to an area along the Virginia-West Virginia border.
The disease spread rapidly northeastward after that, and now is found along the entire East coast from Florida to Maine.