Raccoon rabies vaccination campaign underwayPublished Aug 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm (Updated Aug 9, 2013 at 1:47 pm)
The Allegheny County Health Department’s annual raccoon rabies vaccine baiting program runs through Aug. 16, as part of a multi-state effort to eradicate raccoon rabies. Six rabid raccoons have been reported in the county so far this year
The baits, specially made for raccoons and laced with rabies vaccine, are small plastic packets coated with fishmeal or one-square-inch blocks of compressed fishmeal. Health Department workers, wearing T-shirts and driving vehicles marked to identify them as part of the “Rabies Control Team,” will distribute about 230,000 baits by hand in all municipalities on foot and from vehicles. Baits will be placed in raccoon habitats, reducing the chances of human exposure to the vaccine. While the risk of infection from exposure is minimal, the Health Department urges people to avoid contact with the bait and never touch it with bare hands.
Anyone who finds a stray bait should pick it up using rubber or latex gloves or a shovel to protect their hands. If the bait is intact, toss it into a nearby ditch, wooded area or other raccoon habitat. If it is partially eaten or damaged, place the bait in a plastic bag and dispose of it in the trash.
“If you touch an intact bait or the liquid vaccine inside, immediately wash your hands and any other exposed area of skin with soap and water,” advises Dr. Ron Voorhees, acting health department director. “In the unlikely event a blister-like rash should develop, contact your health care provider.”
The public is asked to keep their pets on a leash, indoors or confined to their property as much as possible during the next two weeks, because while the baits are not harmful to pets, health officials don’t want them to find and eat the baits instead of raccoons.
To ensure raccoons are hungry and will eat the bait, the Health Department also is asking the public to make a special effort to bring indoors pet food that raccoons might eat and make sure garbage containers kept outdoors have secure lids, perhaps even tied down with a rope or bungee cord, to keep away raccoons foraging for food.