Trumbull, Columbiana and Mahoning counties are among the areas for rabies baiting.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Beginning Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health will participate in a multistate vaccination baiting effort to reduce the spread of raccoon strain rabies.
Rabies is a viral disease that affects mammals and people and is almost always fatal. Since the mid-1970s, a strain of rabies associated with raccoons has spread rapidly through the eastern United States, first threatening northeastern Ohio in 1997, ODH officials said.
To control the disease, ODH conducts a program to distribute an oral rabies vaccine-laden bait to immunize wild raccoons along the Pennsylvania and West Virginia border.
The northern portion of the Appalachian Ridge Oral Rabies Vaccination baiting begins Tuesday in Ohio, weather permitting, and will cover 4,682 square miles of the state's northeastern and eastern border.
Aerial distribution of baiting should be completed within 10 days; ground baiting may continue through Sept. 22, officials said.
As in past years, baiting will take place in Ashtabula, Belmont, Columbiana, Jefferson, Mahoning and Trumbull counties and parts of Carroll, Harrison and Monroe counties. Baiting teams also will operate in Geauga and Lake counties, plus parts of Cuyahoga, Portage and Summit counties because of the 35 raccoon-strain rabies cases reported in Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake counties in 2005.
"By partnering with other states and local health departments, we will immunize millions of raccoons," said Dr. J. Nick Baird, the ODH director.
Ohio's partners in the multistate baiting are Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The seven-state effort will involve distribution of about 5 million baits and cover more than 26,000 square miles. ODH has participated in the program since 1997 and has dropped more than 8.6 million baits in that time, Baird said.
Two types of baits will be used. Airplanes will drop a small plastic sachet, about the size of a ketchup packet, coated in fishmeal. In urban areas, the vaccine will be inside a hard, brown 2-by-2-inch fishmeal block, which will be distributed by vehicles staffed by local health departments and other local agency volunteers.
Most of the 808,176 baits will be distributed by air, with the use of specially equipped planes from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and a helicopter from the Ohio Department of Transportation.
Advice to residents
Residents should avoid the baits and keep pets confined during the baiting period. Dogs in particular are attracted to the baits and will occasionally eat them. The baits are not harmful to pets, officials said.
The ODH asks citizens to keep this information in mind:
Instruct children to leave the baits alone.
Once your area is baited, keep dogs and cats inside or on leashes for up to five days. Most baits disappear within 24 hours; however, it is important raccoons have every opportunity to eat them.
Anyone handling baits should wear gloves. If baits are found in areas frequented by pets or children, toss them into deeper cover. Damaged baits can be disposed of in the trash.
If a person is exposed to the vaccine (red liquid), thoroughly wash any areas of the skin that came into contact with the vaccine with soap and water.
If someone has been exposed to the vaccine or has questions about the baiting, call the local health department or ODH's information line at (888) RABIES-1.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says it is illegal to live trap, move and release raccoons. People dealing with a nuisance raccoon cannot relocate the animal. There are only two legal options for nuisance raccoons: euthanize or release on the same property where they were live trapped.
Uninformed people who are relocating nuisance raccoons may be contributing to rabies' crossing the barrier, officials said.