Animal rabies vaccination begins in western Pa.

Lawrence and Mercer
counties are part of the

HARRISBURG — The annual oral rabies vaccination baiting program, which helps control rabies in wild animals, is under way in western Pennsylvania, according to Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff.  

The operation will cover all or parts of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Erie, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Wildlife rabies accounts for almost 93 percent of the reported rabies cases in the United States, and raccoons account for more than 50 percent of this total.

Although the primary focus is to vaccinate raccoons, other animals, such as dogs, cats, cattle, horses, skunks and foxes, also benefit from the program.

Trained employees are spreading bait sachets to densely populated areas by hand.

Dropping sachets

On Aug. 13, low-flying aircraft will begin dropping sachets in sparsely populated areas.

The vaccine sachet is placed inside fishmeal bait, or coated with a flavored substance.

When the raccoon punctures the sealed plastic package, the vaccine is released into its mouth.

The vaccine contains only a small, noninfective portion of the rabies virus that cannot cause rabies.  

The bait does not pose an immediate health risk to humans or pets, but anyone who finds the bait should avoid handling it unless it is found where children or pets play.

Bait can be moved or disposed of with gloves or a paper towel, agriculture officials said.

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