Federal, state and county health officials on Friday will begin this year’s distribution of a vaccine to limit the spread of rabies in raccoons.
Low-flying aircraft and vehicles will be used to deliver the vaccine-carrying bait packages in 14 Ohio counties.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources said the effort will include a new vaccine, called ONRAB, that will be tested in areas of Summit, Portage, Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties as part of a national trial. It will come in a blister pack about 1 by 2 inches with dark green coloring and a sweet-smelling waxy coating.
The vaccine was tested last year in West Virginia.
As in past years, bait distribution with the oral rabies vaccine Raboral V-RG will take place in all of Ashtabula, Columbiana, Jefferson, Mahoning and Trumbull counties and parts of Belmont, Carroll, Harrison and Monroe counties.
The coated sachet is about the size of a ketchup packet. It is white and rolled in a brown fishmeal glaze. In urban areas, where baits will be distributed by vehicle, the sachet will be inside a hard, brown fishmeal block, about 2 by 2 inches square.
In Summit and Portage counties, the area to get baited is north of state Route 303, plus the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. In Cuyahoga County, the area east of Interstate 77 will be treated.
In all, the 776,000 vaccines will be distributed over 4,334 square miles in Ohio. Most of the baiting will be done by Sept. 7, weather permitting.
The program involves the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and local health departments.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects mammals, including people. It can be fatal.
The baiting along Ohio’s eastern border is designed to keep raccoons with rabies out of Ohio under a federally supervised plan. Other states involved are Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The effort will cover 26,000 square miles and will require about 5 million baits.
Rabies has appeared in Lake, Geauga and Cuyahoga counties since 2004 in a breach of the federal rabies barrier. Last year, there were 13 rabies cases in that area, including one dog in Summit County.
A raccoon that eats the vaccine will develop antibodies to rabies in two to three weeks. Those antibodies will protect the raccoon if it is exposed to another infected raccoon. If enough raccoons are vaccinated, the disease will be stopped.
The vaccine is good for one year. It is not harmful to people, pets or livestock, and it is not possible to get rabies from the vaccine.
Raccoons should consume most of the baits within 72 hours. Residents in targeted areas are asked to leave the vaccine alone and to keep dogs and cats inside or on leashes for several days after the drop.
The state health department offers additional advice:
• Instruct children to leave the bait alone.
• If you find a bait pack that must be moved, pick it up with a plastic bag, paper towel or rubber gloves. If intact, toss it into a ditch or wooded area. If it is partially eaten or damaged, place the bait in a plastic bag and dispose of it.
• If you are exposed to the vaccine (a red liquid), thoroughly wash skin with soap and water.
For more information, contact the Summit County Health District at 330-926-5630 or 330-923-8856, or the state rabies information line at 614-752-1387.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.