The Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Division will participate in a nationally coordinated effort to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies with 14 other states and Canada through dissemination of the newer rabies vaccine ONRAB, Environmental Health Division Director James Devald announced. This is the second year Niagara County has participated in this field trial to study the efficacy of this vaccine in the wild.
Niagara was selected, along with several other counties, because of ongoing collaborations with Canada in the fight to protect human and animal health, and reduce costs associated with living with rabies across broad geographic areas. The field test will include air and hand distribution of rabies vaccine-containing baits during the period Aug. 12-31. The field trial is designed to test the safety and protective effects of the vaccine against the fatal rabies virus, and is in the third year of testing.
The ONRAB vaccine, developed by the Canadian company Artemis, demonstrated effectiveness in eliminating raccoon rabies after use in conjunction with comprehensive rabies control programs in that country.
Niagara County officials said rabies is a serious public health concern, as it is a fatal disease if exposures are left untreated. Costs associated with detection, prevention and control of rabies conservatively exceed $300 million annually.
Greater than 90 percent of reported rabies cases in the U.S. occur in wildlife, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of rabies control efforts focus on controlling raccoon rabies, and involve the coordination of international, federal, state and local agencies on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border.
The ONRAB bait consists of a coated polyvinyl chloride (PVC) blister pack containing the vaccine. The outer coating contains a sweet animal attractant made of sugars, vegetable-based fats, flavoring and green food coloring. Humans and pets cannot get rabies from the bait. However, people should take precautions to avoid human or pet contact with the bait. People who encounter the baits are asked to leave them undisturbed. Should contact with the bait occur, immediately wash the contact area with warm water and soap and contact the Niagara County Department of Health environmental division at 716-439-7444. Do not attempt to remove the bait from your dog's mouth, as it will not harm the dog.
"We are asking the public to leave the baits in place, keep pets inside and supervise their children so the baits can be consumed by wildlife," Devald said.
If residents have additional questions related to the field trial, they can call the Niagara County environmental health division at 716-439-7444 or the wildlife services office in Castleton at 518-477-4837.
"Members of our Niagara County community can do their part in this effort by assuring their pets are kept leashed and are up to date with their rabies vaccinations," Public Health Director Daniel Stapleton said. Free rabies clinics are offered five times a year by the environmental health division. Call 716-439-7444.
Find the rabies clinic schedule online atwww.niagaracounty.com/health/Home.aspx.