Suffolk County Rabies Baiting Program

In an effort to contain the spread of terrestrial rabies in Long Island, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services will begin distributing oral rabies vaccine on September 6, 2006 and continue throughout the month.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, Cornell University, and the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services will be distributing the vaccine over an 18 mile corridor east of the Nassau-Suffolk border, bounded to the east by Nichols Road. The vaccine, which possesses no threat to humans or domestic animals, is contained within brown, fishmeal baits and will be distributed by helicopter, hand, and bait station.

To date, there have been two confirmed cases of terrestrial rabies found in raccoons in Suffolk County, both on the western end of the county. Raccoons are attracted to the bait and become immunized when they consume the vaccine. The goal of this vaccination campaign is to immunize raccoons in the county against rabies before they become infected and spread it to other wildlife.

Image of Rabies VaccineRabies is a viral disease that is transmitted from infected mammals to man. Left untreated, it will invariably lead to death. Early symptoms include irritability, headache, fever, and sometimes itching at the site of the exposure. Within days the disease progresses to paralysis, spasms of the throat muscles, convulsions, delirium and death.

People can get rabies if they are exposed to the saliva or nervous tissue of a rabid animal through a bite. It is also possible, although rare, that people can get rabies if infectious material, such as saliva, from a rabid animal gets directly into their eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound.

The New York State and Suffolk County Departments of Health recommend the following actions be taken during this vaccination campaign:

  • Supervise children outdoors both during and for one week following the bait distribution to avoid inadvertent contact with baits.
  • Keep dogs and cats indoors or on leashes when outdoors both during and for one week following bait distribution to decrease the chance these pets will eat the vaccine. This will ensure that raccoons will eat the baits and become immunized against rabies.
  • The baits are not harmful to dogs or cats, but may cause them to vomit if ingested in large numbers. Do not try to remove bait from an animal's mouth. Whenever there is direct contact with the bait, contact the poison control center at (516) 542-2323.
  • Call immediately in the unlikely event that a child bites through the packet and ingests the liquid.
  • Wash hands immediately after bare-hand contact with the bait before making a call to report the exposure.
  • It is important to remember that it is not possible to get rabies from the vaccine. The vaccine does not contain the rabies virus, but does contain attenuated vaccinia virus.
  • Residents are instructed not to move baits found near the home if the baits are not out in the open. These bait packets have a strong fishmeal odor that is not attractive to people and most other animals, and are clearly identified with the following label: Rabies Vaccine Live Vaccinia Vector. Do Not Disturb, Merial, Inc Us Vet Lic. No. 298 1-877-722-6725.
  • If bait is found intact and out in the open where pets or children may come in contact with it, residents are advised to toss the bait into deeper cover, such as under trees or bushes, while wearing gloves or using a plastic bag.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services recommends the following precautions to protect yourself and your family from possible exposure to rabies:

  • New York State and Suffolk County law requires that all dogs, cats, and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies. Vaccinating your pet not only provides protection for the animal, but vaccinated pets act as a barrier to keep the rabies virus from spreading between wild animals and people. It is very important to make sure that these animals, as well as livestock and horses have current rabies vaccinations.
  • Keep dogs, cats and ferrets on a leash and keep livestock confined in the evening.
  • Do not have contact with any animal other than your own.
  • Do not feed wildlife or stray animals and discourage them from seeking food near your home.
  • Do not touch dead or dying animals.
  • Do not approach an unknown animal, either wild or domestic, especially if it is acting in an unusual way.
  • Keep garbage cans tightly covered and avoid storing any food outside.
  • Children should be advised to tell an adult immediately if they were bitten or scratched by any animal.

To prevent the possible spread of the rabies virus, no one, including trappers and nuisance wildlife rehabilitators, should transport and relocate any wild animals at this time.

For more information on rabies, visit the New York State Department of Health website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or call the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Rabies Hotline at (631) 853-8405 weekdays from 10:00AM to 04:00PM.

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