CENTRAL POINT, Ore. - A new grant is aimed at preventing the spread of rabies and educating the public about its impact in Jackson and Josephine counties.

The $22,006 grant is part of a new community-based research collaboration that brings together Oregon State University researchers, OSU Extension, and local county health departments. The Outreach Collaborative for a Healthy Oregon, or OCHO, brings together the research arm of the College of Health and Human Sciences to collaborate both with Extension agents as well as local county health departments to develop an innovative model of public health improvement, service and outreach.

Sharon Johnson, the grant's principal investigator and an associate professor with Jackson County Extension, said the project, titled "Don't Let Rabies Get Your Goat!" is aimed at educating citizens and encouraging the use of vaccination of domestic animals to reduce the spread of rabies. Jackson and Josephine counties have documented a rise in the amount of rabies cases in recent years. In 2000, there were only eight cases in all of Oregon. In the past year, Josephine County alone had over a dozen cases of rabies and Jackson County also has documented an increase in rabid animals.

"In parts of both Jackson and Josephine counties, people live in densely wooded areas where wild and domestic animals interact regularly," Johnson said. "Some of the folks living in these situations have a demonstrated reluctance to have their animals vaccinated against rabies, but there are real and negative public health impacts in deciding to do this. We hope to advise and educate about these impacts and help area residents understand the importance of getting their animals vaccinated."

The grant will fund community forums, low cost vaccination clinics and community cable television programs that will spread the message on the detrimental impacts of rabies to both humans and local wildlife. In addition, local 4-H youth groups will be involved in the educational campaign, including handing out informational leaflets at local farmers' markets and other community events. The project team is also collaborating with the state veterinarian and area veterinarians to make rabies vaccinations more readily available. Assessment data that defines vaccination needs in southern Oregon will be collected at the Jackson/Josephine county fairs.

"We will use the best practices of public health campaigns, and actively engage with 4-H youth in service learning opportunities," Johnson said. "The more that the community is involved in this project, the more successful it will be."

Other collaborators in addition to Johnson include Anne Manlove and Chris Names with Extension 4-H; Viktor Bovbjerg, associate professor with OSU's Department of Public Health; Aurora Villarroel, assistant professor in OSU's College of Veterinary Medicine; Mark Orndoff, director of Jackson County Public Health; Emilio DeBess, State Public Health Veterinarian; Dr. Jim Shames, medical director for Jackson and Josephine County; and Diane Hoover, director of Josephine County Public Health.

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Sharon Johnson, 541-776-7371