OSWEGO — The Oswego County Health Department is working with the Wildlife Services Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to distribute oral rabies vaccine baits for wildlife across a large portion of the county.

Distribution in Oswego County is tentatively planned for Thursday, Aug. 12 through Monday, Aug. 16, weather permitting. Rabies vaccine bait packets will be distributed by air with low-flying aircraft and by hand in more specific areas.

Each bait consists of a blister packet which contains the vaccine and is coated with a sweet attractant to appeal to wild animals. Wildlife — primarily raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes — will eat the bait and become vaccinated against rabies, which will help stop the spread of the disease.

Judy Grandy, director of Environmental Health for the Oswego County Health Department, reminds residents that rabies is a serious public health concern. “The rabies virus remains active year-round,” she said. “It can infect any mammal and it is nearly always fatal if left untreated.

“According to the CDC, wild animals account for nearly 90% of the reported rabies cases in the U.S.,” she added. “Immunizing wildlife will help decrease the exposure of humans and domestic animals to the rabies virus.”

Although the vaccine is not harmful to pets or people, the bait packets should not be disturbed. Residents are asked to instruct children to leave the baits alone and watch pets to make sure they avoid them as well.

If an intact bait is found in an area frequented by children or pets, wear a glove or use a paper towel to pick it up and move it to a bushy or wooded area. If a bait is found broken and the liquid vaccine is visible, wear a glove or use a paper towel to pick it up and put it in a plastic bag. Cover the bait with 1:10 dilution of household bleach and wipe down affected areas with bleach. Place cleaning materials in the bag and dispose of it in the regular trash.

Be sure to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water after any contact with the bait. For further guidance, call the phone number listed on the bait or call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3564.

If a pet is found eating a bait packet, do not attempt to remove it from the animal’s mouth and risk being bitten or touching the bait. The bait will not harm a pet. Should a pet consume numerous baits, it may develop an upset stomach. If a pet ingests a bait, avoid getting its saliva into eyes, mucous membranes or on skin lesions for 24 hours.

Oswego County Public Health Director Jiancheng Huang. “I want to thank our Environmental Health team for their partnership with the USDA and the work they have done on tracing rabies in wild animals. The data they accumulated provided the evidence that brought this federal program to Oswego County.”

For more information or to report contact with a bait packet, call the Oswego County Health Department at 315-349-3564. For more information about the oral rabies vaccine program, call the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services office at 1-866-4 USDA-WS (1-866-487-3297) or go to http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wildlife-damage/rabies.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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