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Raccoon rabies drops planned for St. Lawrence, Franklin counties

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CANTON - New York will once again be taking part in a nationally coordinated effort to halt the spread of raccoon rabies in 14 states. A new oral rabies vaccine (ORV) called ONRAB will be field tested for a second year in Essex and Clinton counties in the Empire State as part of a study that also includes parts of northern Vermont and New Hampshire encompassing some 3,536 mi2 (9,159 km2).

Additionally, an expansion of the field trial into portions of Erie, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, Niagara, St. Lawrence, and Wyoming counties encompassing 2,749.5 square miles (7,121.3 km2) will occur in 2013. These sites were selected in part because of ongoing collaborations with Quebec and Ontario, Canada in the fight against rabies to protect human and animal health and reduce significant cost associated with living with rabies across broad geographic areas. Air and hand distribution of baits will take place in New York from August 19th – September 6, 2013.

Rabies is a serious public health concern because if left untreated it is invariably fatal. Costs associated with detection, prevention and control of rabies conservatively exceed $300 million annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, greater than 90 percent of reported rabies cases in the United States are in wildlife. The cooperative USDA, APHIS, Wildlife Services National Rabies Management Program (NRMP) was established in 1997 to prevent the further spread of wildlife rabies in the United States by containing and eventually eliminating the virus in terrestrial mammals. The majority of the NRMP efforts are focused on controlling raccoon rabies, which continues to account for most of the reported wildlife rabies cases in the U.S. Raccoon rabies occurs in all states east of the established ORV zone that extends from Maine to northeastern Ohio to southwestern Alabama. Continued access to oral vaccine and bait options that are effective in all target wildlife species remains critical to long term success.

The ONRAB bait consists of a blister pack, containing the vaccine. To make the baits attractive, the blister packs are coated with a sweet attractant that includes vegetable-based fats, wax, icing sugar, vegetable oil, artificial marshmallow flavor, and dark-green food-grade dye. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from contact with the bait. However, people who encounter baits directly are asked to leave the bait undisturbed. If contacts with bait occur, immediately rinse the contact area with warm water and soap and contact your local health department at 1-315-386-2325. Please do not attempt to remove bait from your dog’s mouth. The bait will not harm the dog. If you have additional questions related to the field trial please contact the Wildlife Services office in Castleton, NY at (518) 477- 4837.

To date, St. Lawrence County has had 18 raccoons, 2 skunks and 1 groundhog test positive for rabies.

Rabies is most often transmitted through the bite or scratch of an infected animal or when saliva, brain tissue or cerebral spinal fluid of the infected animal comes in contact with an open wound or mucus membrane (such as nose, eyes or mouth). Simple contact with a wild animal will not result in rabies. If bitten by an animal, first wash the wound with soap and water and immediately go the hospital emergency room for evaluation. All animal bites must be reported to the County Public Health Department.

The Public Health Department wants to remind pet owners of the importance of having their animals up-to-date on rabies vaccinations. Rabies is a fatal disease. Vaccination of pets is the primary prevention measure that prevents the rabies virus from passing from wildlife to pets to people. The next scheduled rabies vaccination clinics are from 5-8 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Canton Human Services Building and from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 25. in Dekalb. All cats, dogs and ferrets can be vaccinated at the clinic. Please call the Public Health Department at 315-386-2325 for more information about the rabies clinics.

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