Rabies Vaccine Airdrop Efforts to Begin Mid-August; Program Aimed at Reducing Incidence of Rabies in Local Wildlife Population

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 From the Office of the Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale R. Burstein

Date August 7, 2015                               

CONTACT: Mary C. St. Mary/Mary.StMary@Erie.Gov

Phone: 716.858.4941/ Mobile: 716.253.3925

Rabies Vaccine Airdrop Efforts to Begin Mid-August

Program Aimed at Reducing Incidence of Rabies in Local Wildlife Population

ERIE COUNTY, NY— In collaboration with the Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center, the New York State Department of Health and the USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services, the Erie County Department of Health (“ECDOH”) is participating in a wildlife baiting rabies vaccination initiative.  This program will tentatively begin Monday, August 17, 2015.

Rabies vaccine baits distributed over rural areas by five fixed-wing aircraft and one helicopter will begin no earlier than August 17th and will take approximately 3 days to complete, based on weather conditions. In addition, the ECDOH Division of Environmental Health will have staff from their Rabies, Disease and Vector Control Program distributing baits via vehicles and on foot. This schedule may be adjusted slightly due to inclement (rain) weather conditions. The geographic area to be covered is shown on the attached map.

“This distribution of vaccine-laden baits by airplane and helicopter throughout Western New York is part of an aggressive action to halt the spread of rabies in wildlife, particularly raccoons,” said Peter Tripi, Senior Public Health Sanitarian. “Rabies remains a very serious disease as it is nearly always fatal once symptoms are evident. Coordinated efforts such as this are a vital way to protect Erie County residents and their pets from contact with potentially rabid wildlife.

To date in 2015, 16 animals from Erie County tested positive for rabies, predominantly bats and raccoons. Vaccinating wildlife against rabies is a highly effective method to decrease the risk of exposure to rabies by coming in contact with rabid wildlife.”

“The ECDOH Rabies, Disease and Vector Control program will be actively putting boots on the ground to hand bait areas throughout Erie County,” said Dr. Gale R. Burstein, Erie County Commissioner of Health. “Be on the lookout for our team helping to fight the spread of rabies, particularly in raccoons in Erie County. The new oral rabies vaccine should prove more effective than prior versions, which will hopefully lead to a drop in rabies in our raccoon populations. Our efforts should lead to a decreased risk of Erie County residents coming in contact with a rabid wild animal.”  

Residents should not disturb baits if they see them. Most baits are eaten within four days; almost all baits will be gone within a week. If baits are not found and eaten, they will dissolve and expose the vaccine; sunlight and exposure to air then inactivates the vaccine. Residents should WASH HANDS IMMEDIATELY if they come into direct contact with the vaccine or bait, then call the New York State Department of Health Rabies Information Line at 1-888-574-6656.

Other recommendations include:

• Supervise children’s outdoor activities during and for one week following bait distribution

• Confine dogs and cats indoors and observe leash laws during the bait distribution interval and for one week afterward. This increases the probability of raccoon vaccination and decreases the chance of pets finding the baits

• The baits and vaccines are not harmful to domestic animals; however, an animal may vomit if it consumes several baits. Residents should not risk being bitten while trying to remove bait from your pet’s mouth.

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For More Information:

Erie County Department of Health

New York State Department of Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service,

Map of Rabies Vaccine Distribution

Oral Rabies Vaccine Aug2015