COLUMBUS — An oral rabies vaccination operation will begin May 1 in five northeast Ohio counties.
The operation is coordinated by the Ohio departments of Health, Natural Resources and Transportation, plus the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services program.
Baits containing a vaccine, that when eaten by a raccoon protects it against rabies, will be distributed by vehicle, aircraft and helicopter in target areas of northern Ohio.
This is to curb the spread of raccoon-rabies variant that was identified in Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake counties in 2004. In 2007, 19 rabid animals (10 raccoons and nine skunks) were confirmed positive from Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties for raccoon-rabies variant, up from 10 rabid raccoons identified from the same area in 2006.
Oral rabies vaccine will be distributed in a roughly 1,121-square-mile area in all of Lake and Geauga counties; north of Interstate 80 in Portage County; east of Interstate 77 in Cuyahoga County; and northern Summit County.
Most vaccine-laden baits, particularly in rural areas, will be distributed by air, with the use of a specially equipped white Beechcraft King Air airplane and by helicopter.
In urban and residential areas, teams in trucks will distribute vaccine-laden baits.
“Residents in the areas to be baited should be aware of low-flying aircraft and should keep children and pets away from the baits, so raccoons have every chance to eat them,” Ohio Department of Health Director Alvin Jackson said.
Two types of bait will be used. Aircraft will drop a small plastic sachet, about the size of a ketchup packet. In urban areas, the vaccine will be inside a hard, brown 2-by-2-inch fishmeal block.
About 367,200 baits will be distributed. Weather permitting, the operation will start May 1 and continue through May 23.
Ground baiting may be extended, depending on the weather.
The operation is part of the Appalachian Ridge Oral Rabies Vaccine program, which has been conducted in Ohio and other states since 1997.
By vaccinating raccoons along Ohio’s eastern border, an immune barrier has been created that has successfully slowed the spread of raccoon-rabies variant into Ohio from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The fall oral rabies vaccine baiting is slated for late August.
Residents should avoid the baits and keep pets confined during the baiting period. Dogs in particular are attracted to the baits and will occasionally eat them. The baits are not harmful to pets. Once your area is baited, keep dogs and cats inside or on leashes for up to five days.
If someone has been exposed to the vaccine or has questions about the baiting, call the local health department or 888-722-4371.
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