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The Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services will begin the county’s annual Raccoon Rabies Baiting Program. This year, vaccine-containing baits will be distributed from July 25 through August 31 across Allegheny County.
Over the course of the six-week project, crews will distribute more than 300,000 baits in all 130 Allegheny County municipalities, as well as parts of Beaver and Washington Counties. Bait will be spread by hand from August 1 to August 5; aircraft, including helicopters and fixed-wing airplanes, will distribute bait throughout the duration of the project. Residents might see low-flying, slow-moving aircraft pass over the same area multiple times over a short period of time. Some residents who are unaware of the program may find this unusual or even alarming, so the ACHD asks for the public’s help in getting the word out about the initiative.
The oral rabies vaccine bait consists of a small blister packet that contains a liquid vaccine inside. The bait is coated in a waxy, green coating that is attractive to raccoons. Most of the baits will be consumed within five days of dispersal. The baits are not harmful to pets. However, residents are asked to keep their dogs and cats inside or on-leash as much as possible. In years past, there have been problems with off-leash dogs consuming the baits in parks. Parks are common raccoon habitats and are therefore important areas to bait.
To ensure raccoons are hungry, the ACHD also asks residents to bring food sources indoors and make sure that garbage containers outdoors have secure lids. Residents should avoid contact with the bait. If by chance they come in contact with the bait or the liquid vaccine inside, they should wash their hands and any other exposed area of skin with soap and water.
In the unlikely event a rash develops, residents should contact their health care provider immediately. Rabies is a virus transmitted by animal bites or scratches. Exposures due to a bite or scratch are almost always fatal when left untreated. Any resident bitten, scratched, or otherwise exposed to saliva from a stray or any other animal should immediately cleanse the contact area with soap and water, seek emergency medical treatment and contact the Health Department by calling 412-687-ACHD (412- 687-2243) to report the incident.
The Raccoon Rabies Baiting Program has aimed to reduce the number of confirmed rabies cases in Allegheny County for 21 years ago.
Click here for images of what the baits look like There are two different vaccines you may see – a packet coated in fishmeal, or a packet coated in a sweet, waxy coating, each attractive to raccoons. The scent attracts the raccoons who consume the bait and vaccine, resulting in the development of antibodies to the rabies virus.
Click here for descriptions of fixed-wing aircraft & helicopters that will be distributing the bait.