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For the 16th consecutive year, workers from the Allegheny County Health Department are placing rabies vaccine baits in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease.
Now through Aug. 11, more than 300,000 of the baits are being distributed across the county by health department employees on foot and in vehicles, said Melissa Wade, health department spokeswoman.
The baits are specifically designed to be eaten by raccoons and inoculate them with the rabies vaccine, Wade said. Residents should confine their pets to their property or keep them on leashes, she said. Although the rabies baits are not harmful to dogs and cats, county officials want them to be eaten by raccoons --- not pets.
The department is also asking the public to make a special effort to bring any food indoors that raccoons might eat, and to make sure that garbage containers kept outdoors have secure lids.
The number of rabid raccoons has steadily declined over recent years, Wade said. Efforts to curb rabies in raccoons through programs such Allegheny County's are part of a multi-state effort to reduce the risk of this deadly disease for people and their pets.
Last month, a rabid feral cat was found in Liberty Borough after it was involved in a fight with a neighborhood dog.
Plastic packets containing vaccine are enclosed in fishmeal-scented blocks to attract raccoons. Baits will be placed in raccoon habitats, reducing the chances of human exposure to the vaccine.
The risk of infection to humans from an exposure is minimal, but the department urges the public to avoid contact with the bait and, if unable to avoid contact, to not touch it with bare hands. If a stray bait cannot be avoided and needs to be moved, it should be picked up using rubber or latex gloves or a shovel to protect hands.
“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,” said Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department, in a prepared statement. “In the unlikely event that a blister-like rash develops, you should contact your health care provider.”
The program is sponsored nationwide by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Originally published August 07, 2017.