August 13, 2012

Rabies vaccine bait to target raccoons

PLATTSBURGH — The Wildlife Services program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be distributing an oral rabies bait to vaccinate raccoons and help stop the further spread of rabies.

The baits come in a teal-green blister pack about 1 inch by 2 inches, embedded in a bait material consisting of vegetable fat, sugar, artificial flavors and a dark green dye.

The baits, which can be distributed by airplane, helicopter or car, will be dropped starting Wednesday and continuing through Aug. 24 in northern Essex County along Lake Champlain and in Clinton County along the full Lake Champlain border.

If people find baits, they should leave them alone, unless they are where children or pets play.

To move vaccination baits safely:

Wear gloves or use a paper towel or plastic bag when picking up the baits.

Toss intact baits into a wooded area or other raccoon habitat.

Bag and dispose of any damaged baits in the trash.

Should contact with bait occur, immediately rinse the affected area with warm water and soap and call the 800 number on the bait package or your local health department: Essex County Public Health at 873-3500 or Clinton County Health Department at 565-4870.

If a pet eats a vaccination bait, don’t panic. It is not harmful for pets, though eating a large number of baits may cause an upset stomach.

Do not risk being bitten or being exposed to the vaccine by taking bait away from your pet, officials advise. Check the area where the bait was found and move any remaining baits to a wooded area.

All residents are reminded to avoid contact with stray or wild animals and unknown cats and dogs.

Rabies is a virus that affects the central nervous system in mammals and is always fatal if left untreated.

It is almost always transmitted through saliva, when an infected animal bites an animal or person. Wildlife accounts for more than 90 percent of all reported rabies cases each year in the United States. Raccoons, bats and skunks are responsible for most reported cases, but foxes, coyotes and other smaller mammals may also transmit the disease.

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