To keep the number of animal rabies cases as low as possible, officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be dropping rabies vaccination baits across West Virginia via airplane this month.
The annual event also includes work to hand bait areas that can't be reached via the air drop. The vaccine is encased in fish meal that is eaten by wild animals, such as raccoons.
"They do it when the raccoons are out looking for food for the winter," Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department Administrator Howard Gamble said of the time of year chosen to conduct the baiting.
File photo by Shelley Hanson
The rabies bait blocks, scheduled to be scattered across West Virginia this month, are made of fishmeal and the pink center contains the vaccine.
Ohio County's first case of rabies for 2012 was discovered in a raccoon in Oakmont, a neighborhood located near Wheeling Park.
"Raccoons, opossums and skunks can all be found in our neighborhoods because we still live in a rural area," he said.
But residents should take notice of animals that typically only come out at night. If one sees a raccoon during the daytime acting strangely, one should call animal control.
Gamble said in Ohio County there were no rabies cases in 2011 and in 2010 there were two cases. Hand baiting is scheduled to begin Monday, with aerial baiting to start Aug. 31 and end by mid-September.
While the baits are not harmful to pets, people who find them on their property can simply toss them into the woods or near a stream. If one's skin is exposed to the vaccine inside the block, one should wash with soap and water.