The federal government is taking to the air to help contain the spread of ground-based rabies in raccoons.
In an annual activity that sees the employment of fixed-wing airplanes as well as helicopters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has begun distributing oral rabies vaccine baits for wildlife in parts of eastern Ohio and surrounding states.
The program starts Aug. 11 and will continue through Aug. 20 and is done in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Health along with several Ohio local county health departments.
Such baits have been distributed in Ohio through aerial drops and by hand since 1997 as part of the federal government’s National Rabies Management Program. This effort seeks to prevent the westward movement of the rabies virus, which began a few decades ago in the eastern U.S.
Such viral spread is most often done by raccoons, the federal government’s Agriculture Department says.
.The baits are being distributed using fixed-wing airplanes and helicopters and in some cases from ground-based vehicles.
Approximately 888,000 baits will be distributed in rural areas of eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, and the panhandle of West Virginia. In Ohio alone, some 700,000 baits will be distributed: all in rural portions of Ashtabula, Carroll, Columbiana, Jefferson, Mahoning, Stark, Trumbull, and Tuscarawas, as well as parts of Belmont, Geauga, Harrison, Lake, Monroe, and Portage counties.
Baits also were dispersed by helicopter in urban and suburban areas of eastern Ohio during the first week in August. Among these urban locations were Cortland, Warren, Youngstown, Alliance, Canton, and New Philadelphia.
Lastly, staff will distribute baits by vehicle in a number of Northeast Ohio towns. Among them are Ashtabula, Conneaut, East Palestine, and Hubbard.
The vaccine distribution campaign in Ohio will use a bait dubbed “ONRAB.” The vaccine – which is contained in a blister pack – is covered in a waxy green coating that has a sugar-vanilla smell.
The odor attracts targeted wild animals which then eat the baits and thus are then vaccinated against rabies.
ONRAB has been safely distributed in parts of Ohio since 2012 as part of ongoing field trials to evaluate the safety and immune effects of the ORV bait in raccoons and skunks.
The vaccine baits have been proven safe in many species of animals, including domestic dogs and cats.
Importantly, says the federal government, humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the baits. But if found, leave the baits undisturbed.
Even so, a person who has come into contact with a bait should immediately rinse the contact area with warm water and soap.
However, do not attempt to remove a bait from any animal’s mouth, as you could be bitten. Ingesting the bait will not harm your pet. If your pet has eaten several baits, the pet may experience vomiting or diarrhea that is self-limiting.
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