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Health Department Announces Rabies Bait Drops in Ohio Valley

WHEELING – The Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department is advising residents of Ohio County and the Northern Panhandle that raccoon rabies bait drops will be conducted this month.

The majority of the drops will occur from Aug. 15-26, but this year’s program will also include a special bait drop by helicopter in a small section along the Ohio River in the Northern Panhandle this week.

Raccoons in West Virginia will get another dose of rabies vaccine as part of an ongoing multi-agency effort to create a rabies barrier across the state, extending from the Northern Panhandle to the southern coalfields.

The vaccine is mostly administered to the raccoons by bait dropped out of airplanes and hand distributed. The baits consist of vaccine packets inside of fishmeal shells. The packets are distributed along a path that crosses 31 counties in the state.

In order to control the spread of raccoon rabies, a major source of rabies in West Virginia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Animal Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife Services, in cooperation with local health departments, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources will distribute rabies vaccine-laden baits this month to help stop the westward spread of raccoon rabies virus variant in the state.

Distribution of the bait is weather dependent and inclement weather may result in extended bait distributions.

Each vaccine-laden bait consists of a plastic sachet containing the vaccine and covered with a fish-meal polymer. The swath of baiting will cover the northern panhandle counties and continue down the central portion of WV to the southernmost counties. Most of these baits will be distributed by low flying aircraft. Block-type baits will be distributed in selected more urban locations by hand. Each bait will have a toll-free number printed on its side so that anyone finding the bait can obtain information by calling this number. Residents are asked to leave baits alone and to keep pets confined or on a leash during the baiting period and up to five days after baiting. This gives raccoons the opportunity to locate and consume these baits. In particular, dogs are attracted to the baits and will occasionally eat them. The baits are not harmful to pets, and people should not try to take the bait away from their pets. If by chance numerous baits are consumed, a pet may develop an upset stomach.

The primary bait distributed by air looks like a ketchup package with the exterior covered with a fine brown-colored fish meal coating. The block-type bait is a hard, brown-colored fishmeal polymer shell. This bait resembles a fig cookie. Inside is a smaller version of a ketchup package which contains the vaccine.

Children should be instructed to leave the bait alone if found. If baits are found in areas frequented by pets or children, toss them into brushy or forested cover. Damaged baits can be disposed of in trash. It is recommended that anyone handling baits wear gloves or use a paper towel.

If a person is exposed to the actual vaccine (red to purple liquid), wash with soap and water any areas of the skin that came into contact with the vaccine. Contact your local health department or the phone number on the bait. For more information, contact the Wheeling Ohio County Health Department at 304-234-3682. You can also contact the Rabies Information Line at 304-558-5358.

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