Beginning June 2, 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services Program, in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Health and several local health departments, will begin distributing an oral rabies vaccine (ORV) to immunize wild raccoons.
Baiting will occur in Carroll, Columbiana, Harrison, Stark and Tuscarawas Counties. Contingent upon good weather, the distribution of rabies vaccine-laden baits by aircraft and the helicopter should be completed by June 9, 2020.
The vaccine does not contain live rabies virus, and the baits come in a blister pack, covered in a waxy green coating containing vegetable fats and wax and a sugar vanilla attractant. This vaccine has been successfully used in Canada since 2006 and experimentally in the U.S. since 2011 with no reports of adverse incidents in humans.
“We want the community to be aware that they or their pets may find some of this oral rabies vaccine baits on the ground,” explained Caroline Terakedis, Director of the Bureau of Environmental Health & Preparedness for the Tuscarawas County Health Department. “Although the chances for adverse reactions to the bait are remote, we want the community to be familiar with what the baits look like in the event of accidental vaccine exposure.”
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“There is no risk of exposure when handling intact bait, but, in rare cases, residents might come into contact with the liquid inside the bait,” noted Terakedis. “If you do come into contact with the bait, thoroughly wash your hands or other exposed skin with soap and water.” Exposure may result in fever, sore throat, headache, or conjunctivitis. Pets consuming numerous baits may experience vomiting or diarrhea that is self-limiting. Signs and symptoms may appear up to 21 days following contact with a rabies vaccine bait. All adverse reactions should be reported to the Ohio Department of Health at 1-888-574-6656 or 614-752-1387. Below are some additional recommendations regarding the ORV baits:
Do not attempt to remove an ORV bait from an animal’s mouth, as you could be bitten.
The ingesting vaccine will not harm your pet. Vomiting and diarrhea have occurred in dogs that have ingested multiple baits.
Confine your pet and look for other baits in the area. Baits can be removed (wear gloves or use a paper towel when you pick up bait to protect your hands if you have any small cuts) from the area where your pet could find them and eat them.
Those who have skin, mucous membrane or eye contact with the vaccine, as well as those who have exposed breaks in the skin, are pregnant, or are immunocompromised should seek medical attention if they experience rash, fever, sore throat, headache, conjunctivitis, vomiting, or diarrhea within 21 days of bait exposure.