Friday, 04 September 2009 00:00
Since 2004, there have been 67 raccoons positively infected with rabies and the Nassau County Department of Health believes there is a high probability that other raccoons are also infected. Because of the threat to wildlife and domestic animals from terrestrial rabies, action needs to be taken quickly to prevent rabies from becoming endemic here.
Continuing the effort to eradicate raccoon rabies in Nassau, the county’s Department of Health, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Health, Cornell University and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services will again distribute raccoon rabies vaccine to protect residents from rabies.
Rabies vaccine, distributed by truck and helicopter in raccoon habitats, which include woods, bushes, streambeds, sewers and other areas, began Aug. 31. The bait, attractive to raccoons, is a small packet of liquid vaccine, which is inside a brown fishmeal cube. Truck distribution will be through Sept. 18, weather permitting; helicopter distribution will commence on Sept. 8 and run through Sept. 18 or thereafter, weather permitting.
The baiting area will cover the entire northern portion of Nassau County from the Queens to Suffolk borders. West of Herricks Road the southern border for baiting is the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Main Line while east of Herricks Road the southern border for baiting is Old Country Road.
The New York State and Nassau County Departments of Health recommend:
• To avoid inadvertent contact with the baits, supervise childrens’ outdoor activities both during and for approximately one week following the bait distribution.
• Keep all dogs and cats indoors or on leashes during the oral bait distribution and for about a week afterward. This will allow raccoons to eat the vaccine-laden baits and become immunized and will decrease the chance of pets eating the baits.
• The baits are not harmful to dogs or cats, but a pet may vomit if they eat a large number of them. Do not try to remove a packet from an animal’s mouth. Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 if you have seen your pet with bait in its mouth.
You should also contact Poison Control in the event there is direct human contact with the bait or in the unlikely event that a child bites through the packet and ingests the liquid. Wash hands immediately before calling to report the exposure if anyone comes in bare-hand contact with the bait (even if the bait is intact.)
If residents find bait near their homes, but not in the open, leave it alone. If the bait is intact and out in the open where pets or children are more likely to encounter it, toss it into deeper cover under trees or bushes while wearing gloves or using a plastic bag. Remember that it is not possible to get rabies from the vaccine. The vaccine does not contain the rabies virus. It does contain attenuated vaccinia virus. This is a weakened version of the virus used in people for smallpox vaccination.
The bait packets have a strong fishmeal smell that is not attractive to people or to most other animals; Raccoons are attracted by the scent of the bait and are immunized when they eat the contents of the packets. A label that clearly identifies the bait packet reads: “Rabies Vaccine Live Vaccinia Vector. Do Not Disturb, Merial, Inc Us Vet Lic. No. 298 1-877-722-6725.”
Rabies is a viral infection that affects the nervous system of raccoons and other mammals, including humans. The disease is essentially always fatal once clinical signs of infection occur. Vaccination will greatly decrease the chance of human and domestic animal contact with rabid raccoons. Rabies is transmitted by the bite of a rabid animal. However, the virus may also be transmitted when the saliva of a rabid animal comes into contact with cut, open, or scratched skin lesions.
To protect from exposure to possible rabies:
• Keep domestic animals such as dogs, cats, ferrets, etc. on a leash and keep livestock confined in the evenings.
• Do not touch or have contact with any animal other than your own.
• Do not touch dying or dead animals. If you must move them, use a shovel, wear heavy rubber gloves and double-bag the carcass.
• Residents who see raccoons should not try to trap the raccoons themselves. Call a licensed trapper.
• Advise your family against approaching any unknown animal — wild or domestic – especially those acting in an unusual way.
• Instruct your children to tell you immediately if they were bitten or scratched by any animal.
• If a bat is found in a room where adults or children were sleeping, or if an adult enters a room and finds a bat with a child, do not release the bat. Notify the county health department immediately.
• Do not feed unknown animals and discourage them from seeking food near your home
• Keep garbage cans tightly covered and avoid storing any food outside.
• Verify that your pets, including dogs, cats, ferrets, livestock and horses, have current rabies vaccination; remember, New York State law requires all dogs, cats and domesticated ferrets to be vaccinated against rabies.
• Individuals bitten or scratched by any animal should immediately contact their physicians or seek medical help at a hospital emergency room and then call the Nassau County Department of Health at 227-9697.
For information regarding rabies and baiting, call Nassau County Department of Health at 227-9663 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or www.nassaucountyny.gov/ agencies/health/. Information is also available on the state website, www.health.state.ny. us/diseases/communicable/zoonoses/rabies.