Niagara County Department of Health joins cooperative effort to wipe out terrestrial rabies
Submitted by the Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Division
The Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Division is involved in a collaborative effort with Cornell University, the New York State Department of Health, USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services, the Tuscarora Nation and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to prevent the spread of raccoon rabies in the western region through dissemination of the experimental rabies vaccine ONRAB.
This is the 19th year of participation in the ORV-baiting initiative and the third year Niagara County has participated in the ONRAB field trial to study the efficacy of this vaccine in the wild.
Niagara was selected, along with several other counties, because of its long history of collaboration with Canada in the fight to protect human and animal health, and to reduce costs associated with living with rabies across broad geographic areas.
The field test will include aerial and hand distribution of rabies vaccine-containing baits during the week of Aug. 17. The field trial is designed to test the safety and protective effects of the vaccine against the fatal rabies virus. Residents may see and hear low- flying aircraft and observe Niagara County Department of Health Environmental Division workers distributing green packets by hand around their neighborhood.
The ONRAB vaccine, developed by Canadian company Artemis, has demonstrated effectiveness in eliminating raccoon rabies in Canada after use in conjunction with comprehensive rabies control programs in that country.
Rabies is a serious public health concern, as it is a fatal disease if exposures are left untreated. Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system of raccoons and other mammals, including people. The disease is usually fatal after clinical signs of infection occur.
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.
Wildlife vaccination will decrease the chance of human and domestic animal contact with wild, terrestrial rabid animals. The majority of rabies control efforts focuses on controlling raccoon rabies, and involves the coordination of international, federal, state and local agencies on both sides of the 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 green packets.
People who encounter the baits are asked to leave them undisturbed. If accidental direct contact with the bait occurs, immediately wash the contact area with warm water and soap and call 1-888-574-6656.
Do not attempt to remove ORV bait from your dog's mouth. Do not risk getting bitten, as ORV 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," said James Devald, director of environmental health.
Residents with additional questions related to the field trial can contact the Niagara County Environmental Health Division at 716-439-7444.
"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.
The Environmental Health Division offers free rabies clinics five times a year. Find the rabies clinic schedule online at www.niagaracounty.com/health/Services/RabiesAndPestControl/RabiesPrevention.aspx or call 716-439-7444.