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New York State To Take Part In Coordinated Effort To Halt The Spread Of Raccoon Rabies

As part of the ongoing effort to reduce the presence of the rabies virus in wildlife, New York state will once again take part in a nationally coordinated effort to halt the spread of raccoon rabies in 15 states.

Chautauqua County is one of 15 counties in the state where field evaluations of a new oral rabies vaccine called ONRAB will occur. Air and hand distribution of baits will take place in New York through Aug. 23. Depending on weather and other scheduling factors, distribution of baits in Chautauqua County is expected to occur between today and Aug. 23.

The ONRAB bait consists of a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) blister pack, containing the vaccine. To make the baits attractive, the blister packs are coated with a sweet attractant that includes vegetable-based fats, wax, icing sugar, vegetable oil, artificial marshmallow flavor, and dark-green food-grade dye. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the bait. However, people who encounter baits directly are asked to leave the bait undisturbed. Should contact with bait occur, immediately rinse the contact area with warm water and soap and contact Chautauqua County Environmental Health Unit at 753-4481. Please do not attempt to remove a bait from a dog’s mouth. The bait will not harm the dog.

The Environmental Health Unit of the Chautauqua County Department of Health & Humans Services has documented two incidents of rabid raccoon bites in Chautauqua County this summer. Both raccoons were killed at the time of attack. One raccoon was identified in Arkwright and the other was identified in Ripley.

“The recent rabid raccoon bite incidents should serve as a reminder to residents, particularly outdoor enthusiasts (hikers, hunters, etc.), that animal rabies is a serious public health concern and continues to be present in Chautauqua County,” said William Boria, county director of environmental health services. “Raccoons are, by far, the animal most likely to be rabid in the state.”

Roughly one in 10 animals infected by the rabies virus will become aggressive and attack with no provocation. Other rabid animals may appear tame or docile, and well-meaning animal lovers may be tempted to catch and help the animals. People may also hear orphaned animals crying for their mothers and think they need to care for the animals but when people take wild or feral animals home, they create a danger for their family, particularly children. It is illegal to relocate/harbor wild animals and it’s also very dangerous, especially when children are allowed to handle/play with the animals. Sometimes entire families need to be treated for rabies exposure after an animal has been brought home.

Rabies is a serious public health concern because if left untreated it is invariably fatal. Costs associated with detection, prevention and control of rabies conservatively exceed $500 million annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, greater than 90 percent of reported rabies cases in the United States are in wildlife. The cooperative USDA, APHIS, Wildlife Services National Rabies Management Program (NRMP) was established in 1997 to prevent the further spread of wildlife rabies in the United States by containing and eventually eliminating the virus in terrestrial mammals. The majority of the NRMP efforts are focused on controlling raccoon rabies, which continues to account for most of the reported wildlife rabies cases in the U.S. Raccoon rabies occurs in all states east of the established ORV zone that extends from Maine to northeastern Ohio to northeastern Alabama. Continued access to oral vaccine and bait options that are effective in all target wildlife species remains critical to long term success.

For more information, call the Wildlife Services office in Potsdam at 315-267-2288 or in Lockport at 315-857-4306.

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