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HEIDELBERG, Germany — German officials are launching a two-week ground and airborne blitz to combat a rabies outbreak in southwestern Germany.

Beginning Friday, German fliers will be dropping hundreds of rabies immunization pellets over the forests and rural areas along the Hessen-Baden-Württemberg border, as well as the outskirts of Heidelberg and Mannheim, according to a German announcement.

The pellets are designed to target foxes, one of the primary vectors for the deadly disease.

Meanwhile, hunters will be scattering the pellets in populated areas where foxes may venture.

The offensive comes in the wake of a rabies outbreak in southern Hessen just south of the Darmstadt military community, German officials say.

Officials are urging area hikers to remain on walking paths and pets should be kept leashed Friday through April 30 as the pellets are dispersed.

According to Pete Dressler, a spokesman for Army communities in the area, pellets will not be scattered over bases. The pellets — 1½-inch diameter disks — are formed from food favored by foxes with capsules of immunization fluid inside.

“Basically, these pellets are harmless to humans,” said Angela Baethge, a German veterinary doctor who is helping to manage the effort. She added, however, there is a “very, very slight risk of contracting rabies if there is contact with the fluid or if it is accidentally eaten.”

Officials recommend seeing a doctor if either occurs. There is no danger to pets, Baethge said.


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