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Agencies to air drop rabies oral vaccination bait

STEUBENVILLE — The Ohio Department of Health is partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for air drops of the rabies oral vaccination bait to immunize raccoons in 13 counties, including Jefferson, Harrison, Carroll, Belmont and Columbiana, beginning Monday.

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services program is spearheading the initiative, in cooperation with ODH and local health departments.

Weather permitting, the rabies bait also will be dropped in Ashtabula, Geauga, Mahoning, Monroe, Portage, Stark, Tuscarawas and Trumbull counties .

“As we continue to work with the COVID-19 pandemic response, we want to continue to remind the public that we have a multitude of other health issues that are still with us,” Jefferson County Health Commissioner Nicole Balakos said. “ODH is partnering with the United States Department of Agriculture to complete the air drops for rabies oral vaccination of raccoons. The project will be done Monday through Aug. 20, if the weather cooperates.”

State health officials said the bait they’re using, ONRAB rom Artemis Technologies, uses a live human adenovirus type 5 as the vaccine vector. The vaccine contains Polymyxin B sulphate and Neomycin sulphate, and the attractant coating contains less than 100mg of Tetracycline hydrochloride. Each unit is contained in a blister pack with a waxy green coating containing vegetable fats, wax and a sugar-vanilla attractant.

Bait packs do not contain live rabies virus.

Ohio is one of five states using ONRAB for baiting operations in the U.S. They said it’s been used successfully in Canada since 2006 and experimentally in the U.S. since 2011 with no reports of adverse incidents in humans. Most people, they point out, have acquired immunity to adenovirus type 5 in early childhood, but those who are pregnant or immuno-compromised may be susceptible to a cold-like infection if the vaccine is introduced into a wound, eye or ingested. Exposure may result in fever, sore throat, headache, or conjunctivitis.

Pets consuming numerous baits may experience vomiting or diarrhea that is self-limiting.

Officials say there is no exposure risk in handling an intact bait though they always recommend washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling any rabies vaccine bait.

Other tips:

— If you find a bait pack, they recommend wearing gloves or using a paper towel to pick it up. While there’s no harm in touching an undamaged bait, doing so will protect against an unknown exposure to the vaccine, particularly if you have any small cuts on your hands. If there’s a chance one of the packets has ruptured, wash your hands and any exposed skin thoroughly.

— If you do find a packet, confine your pet and look for other baits in the area and remove them. While ingesting the vaccine isn’t going to harm them, it can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. To avoid any chance of being bitten, don’t attempt to remove a packet from an animal’s mouth.

— Those who’ve had skin, mucous membrane or eye contact with vaccine, or if you have cuts, are pregnant, or are immuno-compromised, should seek medical attention if they experience any rash, fever, sore throat, headache, conjunctivitis, vomiting or diarrhea within 21 days of the exposure.

“We want to inform residents so that they are aware for any concerns related to domestic animals,” Balakos said. “Though the vaccine is not harmful, the plastic packaging could cause diarrhea. If a resident finds a pack in the yard, we recommend using paper towels to pick up it any others in the yard.”

In the event of human or pet contact with the bait/vaccine, Balakos said residents should contact ODH at (888) 574-6656 or (614) 752-1387.

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