PITTSBURGH – As part of the 18th annual raccoon rabies baiting program, employees from the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services will team up to distribute more than 300,000 baits in all 130 municipalities across Allegheny County, and in select parts of Beaver and Washington counties, starting today and concluding on August 21.
The baits are placed in raccoon habitats and when eaten the raccoon will be inoculated with the rabies vaccine. As in years past, baits will be dropped by hand from ground vehicles. For the first time this year baits will be dropped by helicopter in western portions of Allegheny County. By using helicopters, baits can be distributed into remote areas that are not easily accessible to humans.
Helicopter baiting will occur only between August 18-21. To ensure raccoons are hungry and will eat the bait, the public should make a special effort to bring any food indoors that raccoons might eat and should make sure that garbage containers kept outdoors have secure lids. ACHD is also asking residents to keep their pets on leash, indoors or confined to their property as much as possible during the weeks of baiting and for one week following. While baits are not harmful to pets, the baits are meant to be consumed by raccoons.
Individuals should avoid contact with the bait. If you do touch the intact bait or the liquid vaccine inside, immediately wash your hands and any other exposed area of skin with soap and water. In the unlikely event that a blister-like rash develops, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately. The number of rabid raccoons has steadily declined over recent years. Efforts to curb rabies in raccoons through programs such as this one, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is part of a multi-state effort to eradicate raccoon rabies.
These efforts have significantly reduced the risk of this deadly disease for people and their pets. Residents should always avoid wild and stray animals to avoid potential exposure to rabies. They should also make sure their pets are up-to-date on vacations. If any animal appears to be acting strange or threatening, individuals should call call their local animal control service, the police or Pennsylvania Game Commission to report the incident.
For more information on the Rabies Vaccination Baiting Project, visit: www.achd.net/raccoon.