February 6, 2013

State vet: Rabies increasing in Essex County


The ultimate goal is to eradicate the raccoon-rabies strain.

“You have to get upwards of 80 percent of the raccoon population vaccinated,” Cherry said. “This (ONRAB) vaccine seems to work a little better. It’s been successful in Canada.”

Some rabid raccoons have been identified in Clinton County but almost none in Franklin County, he said.

“What we’re hoping for is at some point we get enough (animals) vaccinated that it (immunity) does maintain itself,” Cherry said.

Each vaccine packet costs about $2, so a vaccine barrier is an expensive endeavor, Cherry said.

“I’ve seen so many rabid raccoons (in an area) it affects the quality of life. You need a sustained effort, year after year after year (distributing baits).”


He said people still need to have their pets vaccinated and maintain vigilance.

“Don’t feed wild animals; don’t feed feral cats,” Cherry said. “The number of people exposed to an animal that might be rabid is huge.”

Last year in Essex County, 16 raccoons, two skunks, a fox and a woodchuck were confirmed rabid.

But the last time a rabid bat was detected in Essex County was in 2008.

Cherry said 85 percent of rabies vaccination treatment for humans is due to bat exposure, yet almost no one is getting rabies from bats. He said it’s important to capture bats found in homes so they can be tested.


County Board of Supervisors Chair Randy Douglas (D-Jay) said people are coming to see him, worried that there’s a rabies epidemic in Essex County.

“Last month, I had rabid skunks running down my main street. Kids going to school could not get out the front door to get on the bus. I had to call a trapper to come and get the skunks.”

Cherry said other initiatives are needed along with bait distribution.

“Bait on the ground is useful, but you have to do education, stop feeding the ferals. Community awareness is important.”

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